The Feet in Night

I’m not really the foot fetish type, but for some reason the images which most struck me in Mohammed Malas’s Al-Layl (1992) were the… images of feet. I could have made a screenshot compilation just of the film’s play with mirrors, of its striking wide-angle shots, of the children staring into the camera, or of the symmetries by doorways. Instead I chose the feet. Every single time the camera paused at a foot, I paused the film. Malas’s filming of feet alternates between eroticism and modesty. Feet are first shown in a dream sequence Wissal flings off her abaya and is dressed in cabaret-style; in the next shot she is veiled. Throughout the film, bare feet are all that are visible when the women are working behind a separating wooden wall. The only male whose bare feet we see is Allalah -Wissal’s  politically incensed husband – when he returns from Palestine in 1936, and when he returns from prison several years later. Each of these times, the camera makes sure we notice the bareness of his feet, which make him the laughing stock of Quneitra. Modesty and eroticism intertwine when, reunited after his return from prison, Wissal washes Allalah’s feet. Feet thus symbolize intimacy. As political momentum picks up, in an extremely confusing and Fellini-esque manner (is this Quneitra or Amarcord?), and worries turn to fighting in Palestine once more, coups, and what have you, bare feet cease to be shown. In one of his last interactions with his son (who represents in fact Malas), Allalah furiously throws a metal at his foot. The film being an autobiographical search into incoherent nonlinear memories, I assume this traumatic experience (which took place soon before his father disappears from his life) is behind all the intimate feet in the film.










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