الجنون في السينما المصرية / Madness in Egyptian Cinema


Farida Marei



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مرعي, فريدة; Marei, Farida

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[Egyptian cinema has treated the theme of insanity and used the term "madness" in the title of films to attract the audience. This article examines how the theme of madness has been treated in Egyptian films and describes the types of insanity presented on the screen. A number of films, from the 1940s through to the 1990s, have presented madness as a fabricated accusation, but the technical and artistic treatment varied. In some cases, such a false claim was used to dramatize corruption in society, revealing wicked and greedy characters or the repressive state apparatus in its attempt to stigmatize and isolate its enemies. Examples of such films are Hilmi Rafla's THE MADWOMAN (1949); 'Isa Karama's ISMA'IL YASIN IN A MENTAL ASYLUM (1958); 'Atif Salim's WHERE IS MY MIND? (1974); Barakat's THE NIGHT OF FATIMA'S ARREST (1984), which was based on a novel by Sakina Fu'ad; and Munir Radi's DAYS OF WRATH (1990). Most of these films end happily with the accused revealed to be sane and the wicked plotter punished. These criminal accusations were presented in the earlier films as acts of individual moral aberration; in the later years, the films show the complicity of the mental institutions, including nurses and doctors, in such corruption. Another set of films presented characters who pretend to be insane, often in order to avoid legal prosecution or to camouflage their identity during a police search. Ironically, such characters end up regretting their impostures when they find out that the imprisonment they feared in a jail is more merciful than confinement in a mental hospital, and that the concealement of their true identity has been so convincing that they are locked up in an asylum. Some films have delved into the causes of madness; others have presented insanity as a hereditary disposition, but the majority of films offer the explanation of insanity as the consequence of a traumatic experience such as the discovery of marital infidelity, the death of a beloved or a financial crisis. Such films tend to be simplistic-and often misleading-in their treatment of symptoms; at the same time they exploit the dramatic effect of psychological derangements. There are, however, a few films that have tried to present credible case studies of schizophrenia, including Yusuf Chahine's THE CHOICE (1971) and Muhammad 'Abd al-'Aziz's BEWARE OF YOUR MIND (1985), or cases of paranoia such as Chahine's CENTRAL STATION (1958) and 'Atif al-Tayib's DEADLY JEALOUSY (1982), an adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello with a happy ending. The article concludes that, apart from a few films that treated madness seriously as an issue, such as those directed by 'Abd al-'Aziz, Barakat, Chahine and Radi, mentioned above, the majority of films have manipulated the theme of madnes for melodramatic effect or comic relief, thus hardly contributing to serious reflections on the question of insanity.]

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