The Nightingale’s Prayer (1959)

by guest writer

the nightingale's prayer-1959

The Nightingale’s Prayer is an Egyptian movie directed by Henry Barakat. What makes this movie a precious discovery? The main reason is related to the screenplay, an adaptation after Taha Hussein’s novel “The Call of the Curlew”. A Muslim writer interested in a woman’s fate in an Islamic society? That sounds controversial enough, but it isn’t the only strong element in the film. Amna (Faten Hamama) is an innocent young woman forced by life to change into a bitter, revengeful person. She decides to play a role that will bring her closer to the main male character, the engineer (Ahmed Mazhar). The movie, with its central figure driven by a dark past, seems to take up its ingredients from film noir, together with the wonderful interior monologue.

The mesmerising cinematography signed by Wahid Farid completes image by image a black and white masterpiece filled with many visual and sound (the nightingale’s song) symbols than most of the films I have ever seen. The movie should have been nominated for the 32nd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, having been selected as an entry, but no wonder it was not accepted. It’s obvious by now that real cinema treasures remain hidden away and often overlooked intentionally. I hope you can find a copy of the film, because unfortunately it’s currently unavailable on Amazon, to judge for yourselves.

photo credit: Arab Film Distribution, still from the film “The Nightingale’s Prayer”, captured by me

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