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House Of Sand And Fog (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
House Of Sand And Fog (DVD)
Advantages: Brilliantly acted, unusual story, excellent characterisation, well directed/produced, very powerful
Disadvantages: None of any significance
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 126 mins
DIRECTOR: Vadim Perelman
PRODUCERS: Vadim Perelman & Michael London
SCREENPLAY: Vadim Perelman & Shawn Lawrence Otto
MUSIC: James Horner
Jennifer Connelly as Kathy
Ben Kingsley as Behrani
Ron Eldard as Leser
Shohreh Aghashloo as Nadi
Jonathan Ahdout as Esmail
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on Andre Dubus III's novel which I assume bears the same title, House Of Sand And Fog tells the story of Iranian ex-military man Amir Bhrani fleeing his country, taking his wife Nadi and teenage son Esmail to the USA.
Kathy, who is separated from her husband, has an erroneous eviction order placed upon her by the local authorities. Her house is therefore sold at a very low price to Bhrani, whose intention is to carry out some refurbishments then sell it on at an inflated price in order to make a huge profit.
A very distraught and now homeless Kathy is befriended by Leser, a rookie police officer who is immediately attracted to her, as well as having problems with his marriage.
The storyline then unfolds gradually, uncovering lots of complexities with some quite unusual twists and turns.
Whilst watching the opening scenes of House Of Sand And Fog, I was rather bemused as to how on earth anybody could make a decent film out of the subject of a woman's house being mistakenly possessed by the authorities and sold to an Iranian family. However, as I continued to watch, this seemingly shaky storyline evolved into a spectacular and highly emotive drama.
The acting by the whole main cast is absolutely superb, spot on and flawless. It is difficult to choose a favourite, but if you held a gun to my head, I'd plump for Ben Kingsley who put his heart and soul into the role of a very proud ex-military man who has fixed his sights onto what he wants, and is stubbornly immovable. Kingsley managed to pull some amazing expressions on his face as he lurched from one emotion to pretty much all of the others, to the point where whilst watching him, I became so involved in his character that I almost forgot he was an actor simply playing a role. I have no idea if Kingsley received any kind of award for his portrayal of Behrani, but if he didn't, he in my opinion certainly should have done. Jennifer Connelly is also excellent as Kathy, the harassed young woman who is doing everything in her power, with the help of rookie Leser, to reclaim the house which was left to her and her brother by their late father.
The music - well at least the parts of it that I noticed - is fairly typical for a drama film, being orchestral in nature, hiking up and down mood-wise in accordance with what is happening on the screen at any given time.
House Of Sand And Fog is a film which initially may seem a bit bland, but I'd urge any potential viewer to stick with it, because what at first appears to be a boring subject with little or no potential for expansion, opens out into an intensely emotional roller-coaster ride as Kathy and Behrani struggle to not just stand their own ground, but to also understand one another's moral stance, which isn't easy as the huge cultural differences between east and west put up some very powerful barriers against compromise.
I suppose it's a bit of a 'for the want of a nail' type of story, in that although Kathy's situation is dire due to her being rendered homeless, it initially appears as if both she and Behrani are squabbling over insignificancies, neither being prepared to give way....but, it soon becomes clear why each party views their own position as more valid than the other, and those reasons run deep.
The thing which stands out most for me is the dilemma which arises in that neither Behrani or Kathy are nasty people, and they do both have high moral standards which sometimes allow them to cohere yet at other times cause them to severely clash, headlong. Also, and despite Kathy turning to cop Leser and being very grateful for his help - as well as them both falling in love with one another - he perhaps is more of a hindrance than a help to anybody's plight.
As the situation over who is entitled to be the rightful owner to the house and who isn't escalates, things spiral out of control when all sorts of difficult emotions are let loose. The 'on the surface' viewer may feel that the expression of these emotions and what they evolve into is a case of people making a lot of fuss about very little, but I think it's worthwhile to look into the grey areas of the film and try to understand why each character behaves in the way that they do.
Some people might find House Of Sand And Fog a bit difficult to watch in parts, as it does spiral into some very black emotional places, but I suppose it depends on how comfortable anybody is when facing up to and accepting life's darker avenues....avenues which, being in the right place at the right time (or should I say the wrong place at the wrong time?) can swallow up even the most hardy amongst us.
I don't think that the issue of who should or shouldn't be entitled to own the house is what matters here. The crux and essence of the film is about human feelings, and how seemingly small acts can ricochet into something major that can have a devastating effect on all concerned. Another interesting concept for me in House Of Sand And Fog is that whoever may be right or wrong - and maybe both parties are each a bit right and a bit wrong but for different reasons - everybody was acting in a way that they thought to be right, yet at the end of the day, perhaps nobody was right or wrong....merely different....and this film handles all of these issues, and more, with nothing short of supreme brilliance.
House Of Sand And Fog is what I'd call a creepingly powerful film, in that the intensity builds up slowly, yet when all the stops are pulled out, various consequences of people's beliefs and actions push the drama boat into some brilliantly acted, but uncomfortable to watch scenarios.
In summary, House Of Sand And Fog definitely isn't a film to watch if you want a bit of light entertainment, high-jinx action or a romp, as it couldn't be further from those, but if you like intense, gravely serious, thought-provoking dramas which examine the human condition and turn it inside-out, then this could be something which you'd find very emotional and moving....plus, I promise to the slush-bucket cynics (of which I unashamedly am), that the levels of gooey sentimentality and mawkishness are absolutely zero. This is a deep, powerful, thoughtful and intelligently probing film.
At the time of writing, House Of Sand And Fog can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £8.59 to £24.99
Used: from £1.09 to £22.88
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: A surprisingly excellent film