A sailor returns to his hometown after three years and discovers that his beloved has fallen in love with a rich man. This is enough of a trigger to spin a plot laden with super-charged emotions and actions that could be justified only by a melodramatic plot. In fact, prolific Egyptian auteur Youssef Chahine’s (1926-2008) strength lay in melodramas, but before you scoff at the genre – with all our acquired cinematic tastes – rest assured that in his hands the genre attains a precision that elevates it to the status of high art. Aided by superb cinematography and virtuoso blocking involving hundreds of characters in many of the scenes, the film also makes pointed social observations.
If this is not enough to arouse your interest, watch it for Omar Sharif, who was incidentally launched by Youssef Chahine. The intensity he brings to the character foreshadows his international stardom.
DARK WATERS (1956, Egypt) is streaming on Netflix.
Ranjan Das is a Mumbai based filmmaker and faculty