A Screaming Man
Film history is stacked with uncompromised character studies such as Citizen Kane, Raging Bull and more recently Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. A Screaming Man’s hero is another breed entirely. Adam is an ageing hotel worker who is heartlessly demoted from his beloved post as a pool attendant, only to be replaced by his own son, Abel. Usurped and emasculated Adam seeks revenge and Youssouf Djaoro’s portrayal takes an internalised and frightening edge which is as hard to watch as it is chilling.
What separates the central characters of previous films from Adam is drive and action. Through circumstance, character flaws or as a result of the film’s unsettling realism, Adam’s journey is a bumbling and hesitant one. Where Jake La Motta is psychopathic, Adam is petulant, where The Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a battler, Adam is ineffective. Adam is an antihero, similar in cowardice to those found in film school generation classics The Graduate and Easy Rider, made largely irrelevant by his inertia, his rage boils below the surface, never quite forcing him to become the hero he needs to be.
Cinematically, A Screaming Man is superb. Subjective film making forces Adam’s character into the organic make up of the film in the director’s use of long take, wide angle pans and hypnotic, slowly-drowning pacing which build the viewer’s frustrations piece by piece. In particular, a long, slow track into Adam’s fiery face as he plots revenge against his son is edge-of-your-seat awkward. In a spell binding sequence the director sets an extended, one shot scene of a family dinner set in the crushing, unspoken vaccum of Adam’s temper following his son’s promotion. His wife hopelessly chatters while the two men sit stone faced on either side of her, refusing to break the silence as the minutes tick by.
When the backdrop to the film – the Chad civil war – comes crashing to the fore Adam is shaken down for a war contribution by crooked local authorities. A penniless Adam cannot afford to contribute money and therefore through circumstance, or possibly happy coincidence is forced to enlist his only son against his knowledge. Although the extent of his involvement in his son’s conscription is never confirmed, Adam’s suspected betrayal forces him to become internally tortured and erratically motivated.
Problematic to A Screaming Man is the film’s climax, which brings about its only failure as a realist work. Adam breaks into a military base staffed exclusively with ludicrously sleepy centuries and in an act of feeble minded daring steals his bullet ridden son and attempts to traffic him across the African barren in a wheelchair, leaving the film with a needlessly cartoonish ending.
By Sam Gray