The Aquarium (Genenet al asmak) (2008)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

It all takes place in Cairo, today. The action takes place over 48 hours. Laila is 32 and works as a radio-presentator. People call her on her show Night Secrets to reveal their innermost secrets. She plays squash; she swims; sometimes she writes stories for children and she sometimes goes out with her friend to discos. She lives with her mother and her brother. Youssef is an anaesthetist. He is about 35. In the morning he works in a perfectly respectable private hospital. At night he works in an illegal abortion clinic. His father is dying of cancer. Youssef likes to hear his patients delirium, just before they go into deep anesthesia. When they wake up, he tells them everything they have said. He also likes to listen to Lailas radio-programme.Sometimes, he spends part of his nights with a woman he likes, but he doesnt love her enough to spend the whole night with her. He lives in his car. Two characters, who dont know each other and who will meet. Their lives will not change drastically. They will just realise how lonely they are.
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Critic Reviews for The Aquarium (Genenet al asmak)

All Critics (1)

In The Aquarium, a fishbowl carved out of desert rock gives Yousry Nasrallah's film its title as well as its presiding image of urban malaise.

Full Review… | May 3, 2008
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Aquarium (Genenet al asmak)

Unevolving characters doom Egyptian societal critique *** This review may contain spoilers *** I saw this at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. For those who are unfamiliar with the Egyptian cinema (and I'm included in that category), it is refreshing to get a glimpse of modern middle-class life in Egypt from the point of view of the director, who is pro-Democracy and critical of the repressive nature of the government. The Aquarium gives us a feel for what's going on in Egypt today from the anti-Corruption movement to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. The cinematography is excellent and some of the images very aesthetically pleasing. That said, 'The Aquarium' falls down in the area of plot and character development. The film basically follows the lives of two characters: Youssef, an anesthesiologist who works at two jobs (including an illegal abortion clinic in the evening) and Laila, a radio talk show host who is an Egyptian "Dr. Laura", dispensing advice to the lovelorn over the airwaves. Both characters are supposed to represent a certain malaise or feeling of alienation amongst middle-class Egyptians today. The problem with Youssef's character arc is that it never evolves--he remains repressed and unhappy throughout the film and he misses an opportunity to bond with his father who is dying of cancer. Laila also feels emotionally disconnected and protects herself through vicarious bondings with her talk show listeners. She too changes little, although a bit more than Youssef, as she is 'considering' moving out of her mother's apartment at the end of the film. Youssef first 'meets' Laila when he calls into her talk show. In the film's denouement, chance brings the two together but their relationship is never explored as Laila runs away from Youssef who she perceives as some sort of control freak. The secondary characters in the film often step out of their character roles and address the audience directly. This technique has mixed results: on one hand, the actors provide needed exposition which makes the overall atmosphere more realistic but on the other, it undercuts the dramatic interplay. The Aquarium reminds me of Antonioni's 'Blowup'. The characters are not meant to be fleshed out people but rather 'types' that represent society's shortcomings. Had the writers made their protagonist a little more likable and interesting (balancing out the bad foibles with the good), created a central antagonist and defined a central crisis point, then this film would have ended up more compelling than it turned out to be.

Lewis Papier
Lewis Papier

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