Film review: Good music

“The Chord” (Al Wattar), a new thriller from Egyptian Magdy al-Hawari, deserves to be called a cinematic symphony. The cast includes distinguished and experienced actors and actresses such as Ghada Adel, Mustapha Shaaban, Arwa Gouda, Ahmed Saadani and Sawsan Badr.

The film revolves around a “Rashomon”-like sequence of flashbacks that relate to the mysterious murder of Hassan (Ahmed al-Saadani), the film’s main character. Investigator Salim (Mustafa Shaaban) remains uncertain, as does the viewer, about how the killing occurred and the identities of those involved. He interrogates all the suspects and imagines scenarios by which each suspect becomes the murderer.

During the investigations, he repeatedly replays in his mind the tragic death of his ex-wife, the nature of which becomes clear by the story’s end. Salim eventually accuses a woman, someone to whom he feels increasingly attracted as the film progresses, of the crime.

One of Salim’s key suspects is a character named Meysa who is played by Ghada Adel. Meysa’s trickery and deception, which eventually takes its toll on Salim’s personal health, succeeds not only in misleading Salim, but also the viewer, throughout the film.

“The Chord” successfully separates itself from reigning cinematic trends through its use of music. Generally, directors use music to help move the reader’s emotions in accordance with the film’s events. In “The Chord,” however, music not only plays a major role in drawing the reader closer to the story, but it facilitates the progression of the story itself. The relationship between plot and music is reinforced as the characters seek to apply the principles of music, namely the removal of dissonant chords, to their own lives. Music, in “The Chord,” almost becomes a character itself. 

The film also distinguishes itself with a rich script, written by Mohamed Nayer, that gives each character a detailed personal history. Characters’ personalities change and build according to each revelation, leading to a surprising and suspenseful film.

The script provides space for the accomplished actors and actresses to impress. This is particularly true in the case of actress Ghada Adel, who plays a complicated, distraught character whose youth helps to explain the psychological problems she develops as an adult.

“The Chord” is considered a new beginning for actor Mustafa Shaaban, whose similarly rich and well-written character of the investigator is imbued by strong dialogue and provides him the vehicle he needs by which to demonstrate his talents. Despite the fact that Shaaban has many times played the role of police officer in Egyptian cinema, he has seldom played such a three dimensional character. Like Adel’s character, the investigator is psychologically disturbed by a troubled past. Flashbacks gradually inform the viewer of the roots of his personal problems as he diligently works to solve the murder.

In “The Chord,” writing, directing, acting and music successfully come together to sustain suspense throughout. A seemingly inexhaustible number of twists and turns keeps the viewer on his toes while anxiously awaiting the story’s surprising conclusion.

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