Tropic Sprockets  / The Insult

By Ian Brockway

Ziad Doueiri’s gripping drama “The Insult” is a wonderful entry in this year’s Oscar foreign film category and just may give “A Fantastic Woman” a run for the money. The film from Lebanon has a political subplot but at rock bottom it is a study in human nature and the holistic condition of suffering. From the very start, it grabs hold and won’t let go.

Tony (Adel Karam) is a Lebanese Christian. He is weary of strangers and doesn’t care to be bothered. He lives in a minimal apartment and his wife Shirine (Rita Hayek) is expecting a baby. One day a Palestinian worker, Yasser (Kamel El Basha) gets sprayed with water. The worker deduces that it was from Tony and repairs his drain with a new pipe. But Tony goes into a rage and smashes the pipe.

Then, Tony tells the man, “I wish Ariel Sharon had killed every one of you.” Suddenly Yasser becomes enraged and he violently pushes himself into Tony’s ribs.

Tony presses Yasser for an apology but nothing comes.

Neither party backs down. Yasser becomes more and more obstinate. For him to apologize it would be ridiculous.

This labyrinthine film gradually increases in intensity and a court case ensues. Though the historical references are a bit hard to follow, all you need to know is that Tony is a Christian and Yasser is a Palestinian.

The two hate each other and neither man can let go.

What impresses most is that neither of them can release himself of this ordeal. Their pride is hurt and each person becomes more and more enraged. The fight really isn’t about a drainpipe, but rather religion. Tony winces from pain while, Yasser also winces from similiar pains from the ribs. Both are parallel beings or doppelgangers, not exactly the same but slightly different as evidenced by the way the two park. One to the left, one to the right.

Ultimately, “The Insult” is about the universality of suffering and resentment. Strange it is too see these two people united by hate with a common ground of conflict. The same conflict and hate also brings the two men to respect each other.

Doueiri has crafted a very sensitive film and it is a strikingly worthy competitor in its category.

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