My notes on Blind Sun In (presumably) near-future Greece, Ashraf Idriss (Ziad Bakri) takes a summer job caretaking the luxurious second home of a French family … which, of course, does not go well. Writer-director Joyce A. Nashawati effectively sketches what’s going on around a protagonist who is mostly too caught up in his own head to notice – a private firm seems to be taking over the water supply, prompting riots and brutal repressions; a heatwave means that many businesses and official bodies stop working; everyone is either edgy and paranoid or too spaced out to care (a trip to the luxurious Apollo Hotel shows a JG Ballard beach enclave with a David Lynch lounge singer – Sarah Krebs). When asked where he comes from, Ashraf says Athens – pressed, he admits he’s been in Paris and Rome before that … but he never explicitly states what everyone seems to think, that he’s a refugee, and he becomes effectively stateless after a rude, crude cop (Yannis Stankglou) takes away his residency permit before he turns up at the French family’s villa to be brusquely treated by a boss (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) who never looks him in the eye, lectures him about not touching his whisky stash (the last caretaker was an alcoholic writer who never published anything – hinting at a Shining path the film doesn’t quite take) and gives him strict orders to care for a pampered white pussycat (the tone of the film is so sombre from the outset that cat-lovers will pretty much know they’ll be in for a nasty shock down the line).
Ashraf has a few human encounters – an entitled neighbour (Mimi Denissi) drops in and he finds a lovely archaeologist (Laurene Brun) at a nearby dig – but cops, guards and shopkeepers won’t deign to look at him – this film from a woman director interestingly objectifies the male lead, whom the camera (and all the women in the film) gazes at throughout, even though his marginal status make him all but invisible to men in authority. It starts as if it might be a rising-tide-of-anarchy film, but then takes a more Repulsion-esque route as Ashraf becomes perhaps justifiably paranoid – his boss has mentioned that there’s local resentment of the villa’s luxurious pool (which Ashraf is reluctant to drain, as ordered) and bans on watering the grounds are also enforced, but water keeps being a problem, gushing from a pipe Ashraf has to fix (was it sabotaged?) or an overflowing sink after someone has turned the tap on. Ashraf glimpses shadows and senses intruders, and poring over security camera recordings shows a dog prowling … accusing grafitti (‘water thief’) is painted on the gate, and other sinister goings-on (vandalised rooms, etc) suggest that the home has been invaded. Or is Ashraf doing it himself, out of resentment of the luxury life he can only caretake? Of course, it’s ambiguous.
Festivals often throw up odd juxtapositions os unexpected thematic similarities – two Mars trips, two films influenced by ‘80s Charles Band, etc; Blind Sun and Approaching the Unknown have very different backdrops, but both have male characters cracking up while obsessing about drinking water, and feature scenes of the protagonists struggling with devices to produce a few drips and drops which are eagerly guzzled down even as their minds collapse from the strain of isolation and thirst. This is a measured, unsettling, gripping picture – and an interesting contrast with Repulsion, Sun Choke and a whole girl-goes-mad genre in that it’s a woman director’s film about a man whose mind (and identity) fractures through loneliness.