Original Title: Bab el hadid
Director: Youssef Chahine
Genre: Comedy, Drama
18.12.2019: This review was first published on 22.04.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello, welcome to Ulven Reviews!
The Egyptian movie Cairo Station, original title Bab el-hadid, was directed by Youssef Chahine and released in 1958. In a train station in the capital of Egypt, a physically disabled man becomes obsessed with a young vendor.
World Cup Historic
The Egyptian National team was founded in 1921 but in 97 years of existence, the Egyptian Football Association only played in three FIFA World Cups, in 1934,1990 and now, in 2018.
In the first appearance, when the tournament had another format, they only played one game and lost, while in the second it ended at the group stage. Now, after 28 years, The Pharaos qualified for another World Cup, I thought they would make the knockout stage for the first time and I was so wrong.
However, much of Egypt’s failure in the competition was thanks to their over-dependence on Mohamed Salah, so after Sergio Ramos deliberately injured Salah in the Champions League final, it was over for Salah and the Egyptian team.
Egypt lost every game, even with Salah on the pitch, far from his best form. They got knocked out of the competition early and maybe it was the only chance for us to see Salah in a World Cup.
Thanks, Sergio Ramos! Congratulations!
Some people have pointed out that Cairo Station has similarities with the works of Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock and it’s true, however, I think these two are unfair comparisons to anyone. Cairo Station has merits of its own and I will do my best to point them without comparing.
Chahine built a very successful and productive career, he didn’t back down of making movies with controversial topics regardless of the backlash caused by fundamentalists, politicians or whoever. That made him one of the greatest directors in his country’s history.
He also became known for being the director that launched the career of the great Omar Sharif, best known for his role as Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (from 1962).
Another big name Chahine brought to light was Hind Rostom, the Marilyn Monroe of Egypt. She was already an actress before, but her breakthrough role was in Cairo Station, and since then she was a major Egyptian star.
Bab el hadid means iron door or iron gate, but the movie became known worldwide as Cairo Station referring to the Ramses Railway Station in Cairo, Egypt. The station featured in world news in early 2019 for a fire that killed 25 people and injured several others.
Madbouli (played by Hassan el Baroudi), a newsstand owner in the station, narrates one of the many stories he knows after working for so long in the station and dealing with newspapers.
The elder tells us the story of a man he felt sorry for, so he gave him a job and a shed to live. This man was called Qinawi (portrayed by Chahine himself), a limping, homeless and sexually frustrated man who became obsessed with Hanouma.
Hanouma (Hind Rostom) is a young woman who illegally sells soda in the station and the trains, she is engaged to Abu-Serih (Farid Shawqi) a porter trying to organize the station workers into joining a union.
Beyond these characters, Cairo Station is a movie with various little stories within its major plot, all of these stories inside the train station and resonating with some part of the Egyptian society at the time.
Beginning more as a comedy, Cairo Station slowly changes the tone until it goes completely dark when approaching the final act. Chahine executed this change of tone very well so it was nice and smooth.
After revisiting the movie now, I had a better opinion of it than I had previously, now seeing how revolutionary the movie was inside its context, resonating with a reality many would like to ignore.
Shawqi, Rostom, and Chahine give excellent performances and even though Chahine was not always limping, it was a forgivable offense. My favorite was Rostom as Hanouma, both as a character and performance.
Every one of the characters has flaws, and it makes them more believable and close to real human beings, however, some of their flaws made me really uncomfortable, especially Abu-Serih.
The character I could relate the most with was Abu-Serih, but his flaws were such a let down that made me a little repulsed by him, even though he was fighting for better working conditions to him and his fellows.
Some of these traits in most characters were what made me less emotionally connected with Cairo Station than with Leviathan, for example.
Another downside to me was the duration of the movie, is way too short.
With only one hour and seventeen minutes, many of the side stories were not well developed, at least not to an extent I found satisfying.
Cairo Station is great and very well executed, but sometimes it lacked something, maybe a little more seasoning. However, I liked more the second time I watched, and I highly recommend it. My rating is 7 Moons.