Directed by: #CaioCortonesi
Directed by Caio Cortonesi, Asra, a Brazilian short film is as lyrical in its retelling of the universal story of death and acceptance as it is thought-provoking. The music pulses in the background, intensifying at climactic moments and fading out with the shift in settings. There is a particular rhythm, an ebb and flow pattern in the score. It resonates with the characters’ feelings and emotions. The persistent sound of a ticking clock gives us a sense of urgency. In retrospection, it counts the hours till the old man would stop breathing.
At a measured pace, the camera follows the characters in and out of the frame, panning across Omar’s profile through the wall separating the adjacent room where his father is lying in his bed. The narrator is in no hurry to tell us the story, but the music builds tension as the dialogues continue outside the frame, only to culminate with the anguished cries of the old man before us. Omar tries to reason with him in Arabic, his father turns to face him, bitter distaste in his eyes and responds with reproach, “Your Arabic is still a shame.”
It is significant to note how he never loses control, be it over his own life or over his son. His voice makes a dominating screen presence bursting out loud in intervals and overpowering the monotonous voice-over of the son. In spite of sharing a difficult relationship with his son, the old man entrusts Omar with the responsibility of finding a person who can carry out euthanasia and put an end to his pain. As a conventional religious man, he lived a life of strict discipline, denying himself of his own identity for all these years. Just before the final moment, however, he has one single desire. With the help of the medical practitioner, he gets a makeover and becomes “beautiful”.
The eyes are outlined with dark kohl and the lips are painted in a deep shade, the sharp contrasts are heightened in the black and white film. Zooming into the face and taking a close-up shot emphasizes this transformation. Makeup plays an important role but lighting causes the real impact as his face illuminates with inner peace at his reconciliation with himself. It’s a moment of self-discovery, liberation and transcendence. In death, he breaks free from his physical pain and mental agony, as his soul leaves the corporeal confines of his body, he attains true freedom.