Searching for truth on the road to Batna: "The Yellow House (La Maison Jaune)"

Rebecca Joubin

The Yellow House (La Maison Jaune)

Directed by Celine Brotons and Amor Hakkar
A Co-production: Sarah Films (France) and H.A. Films (Algeria)
Algeria, 2007

The joy of the wedding procession on the road, which begins the movie, is interrupted by the messenger arriving at the door of a family only to inform them of the sudden death of their son, Belcacem, a conscript. When the mother is stricken with pain from the shock, the eldest daughter gets a ride on the wedding procession to go out to the fields and inform her father that his son has died. Hakkar and Brotons underscore the sense of alienation and distance in the human condition, since it is only on the road to Batna – where the father must travel to bring back the corpse of his son – that he finds out bits and pieces of information surrounding the son’s death in a car accident.

For this grieving father the quest does not end here, as he then searches for ways to end the depression of his mourning wife. When a pill to cure sadness cannot be found, he resorts to painting the house yellow. In the end, the solution seems to come in the form of a personal video found in his son’s suitcase, but the father must now buy a television, video recorder, and somehow install electricity in his house. We see he will stop at nothing to ensure his wife’s happiness, and despite the uncertainties and sadness, Hakkar and Brotons depict a glimmer of hope in the power of the human imagination.

This review appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 15, no. 60 (2009)
Copyright (c) 2009 by Al Jadid

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