Intimate ‘Wedding Song’ Hits All the Right Notes
Writer/director Karin Albou’s “The Wedding Song” contains no battle scenes, only American bombings that wipe out portions of the Tunisian neighborhood where the film takes place. But it has the requisite Nazi presence and Holocaust horror as it explores the friendship between a pair of 16-year-old girls, one Muslim and one Jewish.
Muslim Nour (Olympe Borval) is engaged to her cousin Khaled (Najib Oudghiri) and desperately wants to marry. But Khaled is jobless and Nour’s father will not allow the marriage to go forward.
Myriam (Lizzie Brochere) is a bright, headstrong girl who gets herself kicked out of school. That leaves her to work as a seamstress with her widowed mother, Tita (Albou). But after the Germans impose a hefty fine on all Jews, they cannot make ends meet and Tita tries to force Myriam to marry Raoul (Simon Abkarian), a wealthy doctor who promises to support them. Myriam doesn’t want to marry as badly as Nour wishes to be with Khaled.
The girls do what they can to help each other. But when Khaled finally finds employment, working for the Nazis, his newly found hatred for Jews threatens to tear the girls apart, as do Nazi raids on homes and bathhouses aimed at capturing Jews for forced labor.
But “The Wedding Song” isn’t really about specific events. Instead, it is a closely drawn examination of the girls’ friendship, the role of women and female sexuality in North African (primarily Arabic) culture and the horrors and hardships of war on the civilian population.
Albou gets there quietly, turning up the conflict in just a handful of scenes and keeping the focus on the girls. Brochere and Borval each give superb performances, the former brighteyed and knowledgeable, the latter naive but ultimately loyal.
“The Wedding Song“is shot with the same intimacy, taking place almost entirely in cluttered,small homes,a women’s steam bath and on the neighborhood streets.In other words,it feels as if you are there.
Fittingly, the story of Myriam and Nour doesn’t “resolve” at the end of the film; their lives will go forward, and somehow you know that they will continue to be friends, regardless of what transpires.