By Tristen Calderon, Staff Writer
Shady Srour takes on a myriad of roles ー writer, director and star ー in his new film “Holy Air.” A comedic near-masterpiece with a clever premise, “Holy Air” takes a unique approach in displaying the irony in and around family, love and religion. As Adam (Srour) and wife Lamia (Laëtitia Eïdo) find out they are going to have a child, Adam struggles to muster enough money to support a family. An aging businessman, he has been trying to find the perfect product to elevate his career, and in his sacred homeland of Nazareth, he devises a plan to sell the Holy Spirit in a bottle and markets it ‘Holy Air.’
One of the most distinctive and charming techniques incorporated into the film is the minimal camera-movement. Beyond just a bright and pleasant aesthetic in scene and setting, nearly every shot of the film has a remarkably photographic presentation that compliments the simplicity of the story and allows the audience to greater appreciate the wonderful and realistic performances of the actors. The cinematography engrossed the audience into a more casual and realistic view of the lives of these characters, allowing their personalities and struggles to be more personally felt.
Though the validity of the reflection of Israeli society is uncertain, it seems that Lamia has a much more passive involvement in the development of the story. She almost never acts independently, but rather for the sake of her husband. The singular scene in which she is portrayed as a progressive form of the modern woman, however, makes little sense. Lamia is frequently portrayed as a sexual or romantic object; every scene emphasizes some part of her body. In one scene, her actions consist of crying, clinging naked to her husband and kissing him. This appears stereotypical, but the viewer cannot help but believe every second of Eïdo’s performance. As an observation of Adam’s character development, his wife’s alluring and dependent presence accentuates the situation and the comedy.
What deserves utmost praise is the score composed by Habib Shadah, which truly helps develop the setting and the atmosphere. The airy magic of Shadah’s score blends beautifully with the iconic visualization and simplicity of every shot. All of these components together allow the film to communicate a melancholic honesty about the nature of life and the struggle of living. While challenges may arise, and often pile up, life goes on.
Though the viewer might have preferred to see greater arcs in the dramatic developments of these characters, the lighthearted, more nuanced approach suits the comedic tone of “Holy Air.” The narrative misses the opportunity to push the limits of its genre, especially with such charged themes as religion, abortion and the challenges of life in the Middle East. But “Holy Air” possesses enough fresh perspective and a well-balanced, well-acted palette of highs and lows to entertain any viewer.
“Holy Air” opens at the Village East Cinema at 182 2nd Ave. on Friday, Nov. 17.