Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Infidel

The plot is very simple and the potential for it to descend into farce is ever present. The story, written by David Baddiel, is however cleverly carried by Omid Djalili and the supporting cast. To explore the tension between an individual's identity as a Jew or a Muslim and to generate laughter is evidence of striking a good balance in the face of fundamentalist hate that is the more usual polemic for explorations of this taboo topic.

More than exploring what it means to be a Muslim or Jewish, the film is a vehicle for Djalili's character to explore his own sense of identity - a road trip around the mosques and synagogues of East London. Inherent within the story is the tension between a liberal approach to faith and a more fundamentalist position. For those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, the film raises many questions and through them issues an invitation for us to examine our own sense of belonging and self-identity.

One of my early posts on this blog was about the film Notes of a Scandal in which I confessed to having great difficulty in watching films that convey deceit. I find it difficult to stick with them as they make me feel very uncomfortable. I'm not sure why. I simply know that deception and lying are perhaps the things I find hardest to accommodate and to see them as vehicles for a film's story puts me off the film. There is a good deal of deceit in this film - for very understandable reasons, but the tension it created for me meant I had to stop it half way through for a break! Yes I know, I need therapy to get over it. No doubt I suffered badly as a child and this has been imprinted deeply into my psyche. Trouble is, it's buried so deep I can't remember it!

An added bonus of the film is the dimension created by exploring 'Jewishness' and 'Muslimness' in a third culture of East end London. The interplay between the cultures, their motifs and values give a welcome development of what might otherwise be a stodgy and predictable story. It also allows an exploration of how much of a religion's manifestation in any particular place is an expression of the religion itself and how much of it is a function of the culture the religion originated in and also subsequently finds itself in.

I would recommend you give this a try - particularly if a comedic approach to religion is not your usual cup of tea. I'll give it 6.5/10.

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