SYNOPSIS OF THE MOVIE CARAMEL
Layale, a Lebanese Christian, runs the beauty salon « Si Belles« , located in a working-class district of Beirut, where five women work side by side.
Through painful depilations, nail polish application and brushing, these women converse, joke and confide in each other : Layale lives an extramarital love story with Rabih, a married man, Nisrine, a Muslim woman about to get married, fears that her future husband will discover that she is no longer a virgin, Rima sees her attraction to women grow, Jamale, a long-time client who refuses to grow old, multiplies botox injections and castings, and Rose, an elderly seamstress, has put her life aside to take care of her sister Lili, who suffers from dementia.
A TRIBUTE TO THE CITY OF BEIRUT
This work by the Lebanese female director Nadine Labaki is above all a tribute to Beirut. Her love for her city is implied throughout the film, but it takes on an explicit form with the dedication « To my Beirut« , which the filmmaker formulates during the end credits.
Although the film is mainly set in a beauty salon, Nadine Labaki also shows the city, the interiors of its houses but also its streets, their feverish atmosphere and the deafening noise of collective taxis, stuck in endless traffic jams.
However, Nadine Labaki’s film also reveals a certain state of Lebanon, damaged and forgotten by time, as shown by the old wobbly sign in Layale’s beauty salon, or the numerous electricity and water cuts to which the Lebanese population is subjected. Yet, Nadine Labaki does not judge, she only gives a humorous account of certain daily details of her beloved city.
A PORTRAIT OF WOMEN IN LEBANESE SOCIETY
Caramel is above all a film about women, shown in their intimacy ; we witness their liberated conversations about sexuality, infidelity or motherhood. The five women, of different ages and coming from different religions, represent as many facets of the current feminine condition in Lebanon, between attempts at emancipation and respect for traditions.
I didn’t want to do a sociological work and I didn’t summarise the Lebanese society, far from it, but the questions about Lebanese women have always challenged me. We live in a society where women live stuck between the call of modernity and respect for traditions. Modern Western culture appeals to young people. But at the same time, the weight of culture is very strong. My character, even though she is 30 years old, still lives with her parents. That’s how it is in Lebanon. Those who do things differently are often victims of the gaze of others. Lebanese women, whether Muslim or Christian, experience a contradiction between what they are, what they want to be and what they are allowed to be’.Nadine Labaki (Bac Films Distribution Press Kit)
Through her characters, played by five non-professional actresses, the director tackles the themes of seduction, the tyranny of appearances, old age, chastity before marriage and homosexuality. These are ultimately universal themes, which go far beyond the Lebanese borders.
AN ENCHANTING MUSIC
Very present throughout the film, the elegant and sentimental music of Caramel is composed by Khaled Mouzannar, the husband of Nadine Labaki, a duo used to working together. From the opening of the film, the credits show a ceremonial ballet around the preparation of the caramel, and invites you to read the film like a rhythmic musical score.
The music also finds a singular rhythm by taking different forms : a sensual tango that evokes love relationships, but also a piano solo as in « Succar ya Banat« , which reminds us of the weight of time passing, or the impossible loves through the violin tunes of « Rendez-vous manqués » which, vibrant and sad, create a melancholic atmosphere.
Thus, the music accompanies the trajectory of the characters and each piece of music bears evocative titles, carefully chosen to inform the spectator of the state of mind in which they find themselves. These melodies, soft and colourful, are lulled by the golden lights of the film, creating a perfect symbiosis that makes Nadine Labaki’s film all the more exquisite.
Great success of Lebanese cinema, selected and premiered at Cannes Film Festival, and the most exported film at the international level, Caramel, directed in 2007 by the brilliant Nadine Labaki, depicts with humour and bitterness a picture of the Lebanese popular life and the female condition, lulled by bewitching images and delicious melodies.
Coming soon on Cosmic Mektoob : an article will be dedicated to Nadine Labaki, her life, her commitment and her films.
TO HELP LEBANON
Caramel is also a film that makes us want to love and help the Lebanese people, especially since the devastating double explosion of August, 4th 2020 in the port of Beirut. To help the population and the reconstruction of Beirut, here is a list of non-profit associations collecting donations.
- Les Valises de Beyrouth is a solidarity initiative based in Paris, which offers to send suitcases of clothing and food through a network of volunteer travellers. https://linktr.ee/lesvalisespourbeyrouth
- Impact Lebanon has set up an online jackpot https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lebanon-relief
- It is also possible to make a donation to local NGOs, Caritas Lebanon and the Lebanese Food Bank http://www.caritas.org.lb/get_involved/donate/ https://www.lebanesefoodbank.com/