Chaos, which has had its premieres in festivals for the past year, is about three women. Two of them are Syrian, one staying in Damascus and another living in Sweden. A third is an actress, Jaschka Lammert, a stand in for a writer in exile. There are interesting things that director Sarah Fattahi does with Lammert. She makes her walk around a museum with painting depicting Biblical stories. These stories, we have to remind ourselves, took place in the Middle East. The film is about that geographically specific trauma, showing us these women’s relationship with both art and their mental health.
The other two women, Raja and Heba, exist through some of the most unconventional talking heads I remember seeing. I get the aesthetic decisions here. Raja, for instance, appears and disappears from the darkness like a Caravaggio painting. And it relates it aesthetic decisions with its storytelling ones. Fattahi, unlike other documentary filmmakers, does not want to goad her subjects into a pornographic way of storytelling. The suffering of her people deserves subtlety. That said, it’s as if she concentrated more on her visuals. Chaos could have, instead, let its audience know more about its subjects.
The same goes for the way Fattahi depicts Heba, who is arguably the most open of her subjects. Heba is an artist. She uses expressionism to bring back memories of her father and brother who died during the Syrian Civil War. Fattahi spends a lot of time observing her make art or food. And again, I understand this decision, as it evokes the aniconic. This does not, unfortunately, make for watchable film making. Other directors have made gold from making their audiences watch the minutiae of daily life. I would love to see, then, another directors take on these three strong women.
For more information on Chaos click here.
- Release Date: 10/15/2019