Ashraf Idris (Ziad Bakri) is in southern Greece, where there has been a heatwave blighting the land, and he feels the effects pretty strongly as he makes his way to his destination, a luxury pad whose owners have been flouting the water rationing that has been imposed in the area by a private company that has taken over the utility. However, on the journey he is stopped in his car by a policeman who orders him out of the vehicle and begins quizzing him, taking his identity papers and eventually, aggressively telling him to watch out or else - but he doesn't give those papers back, and Ashraf needs them for his work. Nevertheless, his next boss has been waiting for him, and accepts him because he wants him to sit in on his holiday home as the family head off on another vacation.
There was a lot going on in writer and director Joyce A. Nashawati's Blind Sun, her debut feature after some shorts, but it was all beneath the surface which meant you had to be very patient with the experience of watching its snail's pace progress across the screen. You could well understand why some would find this too big of an ask, as it built up incrementally towards an explosive climax that did not necessarily answer all of the questions that had been accumulating in your mind, but as the theme appeared to be what you could hang onto should the world drift into an apocalypse, there was a definite menace present in this sun-drenched landscapes and shimmering sea, global warming amplifying the weather to unbearable degrees. Of course, Ashraf finds precious little to hang onto.
Not even his sanity, as Nashawati seemed to be harking back to two Roman Polanski movies, Repulsion which saw an individual sliding into insanity while looking after a property all alone, and What? which was set in a similarly well-kitted out home on the Mediterranean that provided nothing but a location for its inhabitants to become so complacent that their self-indulgence was their ultimate undoing. Ashraf was the character going quietly mad, while the owners were the decadent class whose money would mean nothing when there was an environmental catastrophe imminent, if not already occurring: although we are offered glimpses of some kind of crisis, we can tell there are bad times ahead for Greece, and indeed the world.
This was made as Greece was hitting its financial crisis, which may have encouraged thoughts of an Armageddon on the horizon, and as that happened Europe began to suffer a refugee crisis as well, which Ashraf, even if he was a legitimate citizen as his papers would indicate, realises he belongs to when he has nowhere to go. Nowhere except that luxury home with its swimming pool that if filled may be illegal, and as the desperation encroaches on the protagonist, he tries to shut himself off from it but keeps having to venture outside the gates to look for water. At first, there are characters willing to help him out, though there are just as many who do so begrudgingly, but by the end it is patently every man and woman for themselves as violence erupts on the streets and a police state may be looming around the corner.
Instigated by that private water authority oddly, perhaps a dig at globalization, but then there was enough vague about Blind Sun that offered a selection of interpretations. Bakri's performance remained a closed off reading of the character for the most part, until he began to crack up and we were given a look at the world from his perspective, which is initially harmed by exposure to the sun, and that triggers his hallucinations, chiefly telling him he is being watched by sinister forces who make odd noises and knock things over - though that could be the family cat - yet what are we to make of the shadows that hound him, teasing him with the possibility that he is being made paranoid when this menace feels well aware that there's not one thing he can do about it. This cast a definite spell, with its languid imagery interrupted by jarring events and carefully designed soundscapes that grow suffocating for the lead. The isolation it presented, either from society's breakdown or Ashraf's personal one, made for a strong, if hard to pin down, experience.