A Young Man’s Death
A young man’s tragic death at Beirut’s seaside causes his friends to struggle with loss and to be part of his community’s rites and ceremonies. By doing so the city’s schisms and its society’s fault lines are exposed.
Mazen Khaled’s “Martyr” first takes us on a tour of the human body, as the camera focuses on the statue-like naked form of central protagonist, Hassane. It is as if the body sculpted by a great artist.
We then see him head to the Beirut beach with his friends, where the day will take an unexpected turn. We do not have much plot and characterization—we only get that these young men, like so many in virtually any country of the world, are suffering from a sense of disenfranchisement and marginalization. There is also an exploration of the homoerotic elements of this almost exclusively male space but though we look for their physical interaction, we find that their emotional world is closed to us.
The film emphasizes the blues of the water and the brightness of the day and we learn that the term “martyr” means something very different in the Islamic world to the narrow definition employed by the West yet it is still opaque. We do not have enough information to really understand what is happening. However, we see every bit of Hassane’s skin although we are unable to get beneath it. The gorgeous visuals interrupt the overall flow of the film and we are never really able to understand the humanity of the characters. We can only guess why Hassane was a martyr and we are pretty sure that it had to do with his sexuality.