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Friday, January 09, 2015

El Hakim

El Hakim, 1957
(Benito Movie Poster)
no copyright infringement intended

What would tell some movie from 1957 to a today's viewer? You'd be surprised, it still has a lot to say.

The destiny of a very smart boy from a poor family in a poor country. Normally it should become a failure from the very beginning. The name of a story written by the Romanian author Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voinești comes to my mind (the story is Niculăiţă Minciună, let's say Nick the Liar or Nick the Lie). All the others, mediocre and jealous to preserve their mediocrity, will declare the smart boy just a liar, and his imagination, just a ridiculous manufacture of lies.

Only a few succeed to get further. After years of hard work and privations, they finish their studies and start professing in the specialty they love, be it medicine or engineering, science or teaching, or anything else.They have to face often the potential hostility of the environment, the corruption and abuses, the lack of understanding.

Sometimes the only reasonable solution remains to emigrate. Then it becomes possible to enjoy the deserved success. Only it's far away from your natural habitat, and nostalgia will start to work, painful memories, of your places, of your youth, of things you could have done and you haven't, focused as you were on your work. Memories will start to visit you, the memory of that girl who loved you, and you had been too shy, or too undecided, or simply too preoccupied with building your career. And you will realize what would have mattered most, and what is lost.

And you will start to dream of returning, to die peacefully in your country, or maybe to find there the time and serenity to write about all this.

That is what El Hakim tells us. A German movie from 1957.

The film is based on a novel (Dr. Ibrahim) from 1935 by John Knittel (a Swiss author born in India, who lived mostly in England and Switzerland, traveled intensely in the North African countries, and wrote all his books in English - then all of them were translated in German). Otto Wilhelm Fischer in the role of Dr. Ibrahim, the man struggling for all his life to get accomplished, meeting the long-sought success in London, and finally coming back to Egypt to find there his balance and become El Hakim - The Sage. Among many other roles, Fischer created also a beautiful Augustin Saint-Claire, in a German adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1965). In the role of his life love, lost in his young years and retrieved in the end, an actress of subtle talent and unforgettable beauty, Nadja Tiller.

(German and Nordic Cinema)



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