Blind Sun, 2015
Written and directed by Joyce A. Nashawati
Starring Zaid Bakri, Mini Denissi, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Yannis Stankoglou, Laurène Brun and Gwendoline Hamon
Greece. Sometime in the near future. A seaside resort struck by a heavy heat wave. Water is rare and violence is mounting. Ashraf, a solitary immigrant, is looking after a villa while its owners are away. On a dusty road crushed by the sun, he is stopped by a police officer for an identity check.
Blind Sun is, in the truest sense of the term, a slow burn. The film is – supposedly – set within in a near-future where water is scarce and a heatwave is setting in, and immigrant Ashraf Idriss (Zaid Bakri) is looking after a luxurious villa while its owners escape the sun. But strange things are a foot and he is seemingly being followed. Or is it all just a figment of his imagination created by a lack of water?
There are two ways to look at a ‘slow burn’, and your enjoyment of Blind Sun will depend on where you sit. One way is to argue that a slow burn paces itself and never gives into the temptation to satisfy the audience with answers or teases allowing them to go on a rollercoaster ride (see: The Babadook), or you could say it’s a movie that presents virtually nothing until the last ten or so minutes where suddenly a whole load of drama hits you. Blind Sun, sadly, falls into the latter category. Writer and director Joyce A. Nashawati clearly thinks she is creating atmosphere and tension by offering drips in ways of story and plot, but it just means that Blind Sun is 90% filler and little killer.
Which is odd because it claims to be a psychological thriller, but Blind Sun is far from it. Nashawati’s script surrounds Ashraf walking from place to place, having meaningless conversations and then going on to the next location. In one scene he might be swimming and having a chat with the neighbour, in another he’s talking with an archaeology group, and then he’s off to the shops. Blind Sun is only eighty minutes long, but the plot doesn’t really kick in until the sixty-five or seventy minute mark. It’s a real shame because that time could have been used building up the tension, cranking up Ashraf’s paranoia or presenting us a horrific world where water is charged for a premium rate by some unseen corporate company. Instead we get to see Ashraf go to the shops where a clerk is openly watching hardcore pornography. How very edgy.
The biggest shame from all this is that the setting of Blind Sun was perfect to create a tense thriller. It’s no secret that this ‘near future’ is not too far off in terms of the earth’s resources running out and being held to ransom by fat cats in suits, but the movie never plays up to it. A few people will say they are thirsty, but the violence on the street and the horror that comes with that is kept to a minimum. In any other situation, one could argue that’s a good thing because it’s background noise that keeps your heart racing, but it’s featured so infrequently that the ‘world running out of water’ plot device is almost forgotten about. Instead you’re focused on whether or not Ashraf is going mad, which isn’t really given much lip service either. Compare Blind Sun to the scenes of madness from These Final Hours. While the latter movie is on a much larger scale in terms of impending doom, it shows the horrors around our protagonist without focusing directly on them. If you didn’t know there was a theme of water running low going into Blind Sun, you’d be forgiven for not even noticing it.
Something Blind Sun really does nail, however, is the feeling of inescapable heat. Those who have had trips out into the Nevada desert (other examples of hot places are available) will know how draining heat can have on a person, and Nashawati captures this perfectly. The whole film is drenched in beautiful golden yellow, and even when the curtains are drawn you can feel the uncomfortableness. Every time Ashraf gets a sip of water, you taste the refreshment with him. It’s masterful direction, helped by some sublime cinematography from Giorgos Arvanitis. Bakri’s performance, when he’s given something to do at least, is commendable too and he sells the harshness of the beating sun incredibly well.
Notwithstanding the final ten minutes – which are fantastic – Blind Sun is a pretty boring picture with very little to say despite it’s great premise. It says a lot when the twenty-minute Twilight Zone episode “The Midnight Sun” does more with the perils of a heatwave and lack of water than your feature-length movie with its much larger scale. A good central performance and interesting final moments aside, there isn’t a lot to see within Blind Sun and you’ll have forgotten you’ve seen it the moment it finishes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made (which you can pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US). You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.