fri 04/12/2020

Luxor review - Andrea Riseborough stars in cathartic drama about healing old wounds | reviews, news & interviews

Luxor review - Andrea Riseborough stars in cathartic drama about healing old wounds

Luxor review - Andrea Riseborough stars in cathartic drama about healing old wounds

Zeina Durra’s contemplative sophomore feature eloquently captures the pain of loneliness amidst the ancient sands of Egypt

Karim Saleh and Andrea Riseborough in 'Luxor'

Zeina Durras sophomore feature arrives on our screens a decade on from her debut, The Imperialists Are Still Alive! It was worth the wait.

Zeina Durras sophomore feature arrives on our screens a decade on from her debut, The Imperialists Are Still Alive! It was worth the wait. Luxor is a subtle, low-key drama that possesses an atmosphere of meditative calm, exploring a life that has seen too much pain and is desperate to find a way to heal. 

Do you ever worry about opening up places that have been laid to rest?” asks Hana (Andrea Riseborough) to her one-time lover and archaeologist, Sultan (Karim Saleh). It goes without saying that its a loaded question. Until recently, Hana has been working as a doctor on the Jordanian-Syrian border, but has fled to Egypt in hope of some much-needed respite. She is torn between the hope of rekindling the flame with Sultan, whom she first met in her twenties, and existing in a self-imposed exile, wandering the ancient temples and crypts like a shade unable to find rest.

Hana is a fractured soul, who has seen far too much of the world and now struggles with life. Riseborough gives a subtle and mannered performance. Given the lean amount of dialogue, she instead uses the slightest of gestures, looks and movements to convey Hanas pain. What little she does say verges on the existential. Saleh and Riseborough on the banks of the NileWandering around the ruins she encounters gaggles of tourists, brash Americans and soul-searching spiritualists convinced that they feel a special connection to the ancient past. Hana herself is no sceptic. She feels that in the tumult of the world the supernatural almost bursts into the forefront of life, but the influx of tourists makes her feel like an alien. Its only with Sultan and old friends that she finds comfort. 

Durra worries little about fancy film work, and instead proves to be a master at creating atmosphere. This is in part thanks to Zelmira Gainza’s cinematography that captures a city that feels at once deeply ancient and modern. Tombs and temples sit alongside busy dust-ridden roads. Time and history are, as Hana says, "pregnant" in Luxor. The mood of the film is sorrowful, but not absent of hope. 

Riseborough and Durra are a wonderful match, both restrained and yet compelling. While the slow pacing and absence of dramatic fireworks may feel alienating to some viewers, for those willing to stick with it, Luxor will act as a gentle, poetic meditation. In the middle of the journey of life, the pain of seeing and feeling too much suffering can still be let go, and a new life awaits.

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