Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Ma Vie en Rose" by Belgian director Alain Berliner (1997)

I recently watched “Ma Vie En Rose” (1997) by Belgian director Alain Berliner. The movie simply addresses trans-sexuality which is a well-trodden theme especially in the western movie industry. However the novelty of the movie comes from addressing trans-sexuality for a child at the age of 7. It is certainly a crisis when a person believes that his or her body does not reflect his or her true 'inner' gender. How about for a little kid? In “Ma Vie En Rose”, it is not a problem for the boy, who wants to be a girl, however, it turns to be a real nightmare for the family. As a matter of fact, the boy is lucid about his own needs and his future dreams. He does not hide from his difference, may be because he is not yet aware of it as the parents do.

In a religious context, trans-sexuality is simply sin. In other contexts, it is possibly a wide range of all kinds of disorder.

The story of Ludovic (played by Georges Du Fresne) in “Ma Vie En Rose” is the greatest fear in families all over the world. Most of the Egyptian families or parents for example keep reminding their boys at the very early years of their lives that they are men. They make jokes with their boys about flirting with other little girls in the family or the neighborhood even when the boy is two-year old. It is to remind him all the time that he is a boy. In the rural areas in Egypt, families take the flirting jokes to a commitment of marrying his cousin. So the boys and girls in the families grow with the assertion of their gender regardless of their real inner tendencies. If an individual was proven to be a gay or trans-sexual, social aggression and communal violence can mount to the tensest kinds of retaliation. It is not that this is going to be the rule that everyone will grow to be different, but difference should not be a crime to pay for.

The family and neighborhood of Ludovic could not accept the fact that he wants to be a girl. They made fun of him. He was sent to a psychologist, but he kept dreaming about being a girl. The movie confirms the innocence of Ludovic of being honest about his gender inclinations versus the hypocrisy of society where he lives. Adults in the neighborhood are full of moral deviations, yet they continue to hide them to claim a perfect world that normally does not exist.

The best part about the movie is the music, songs and the dancing. It is indeed reflecting the ambience of la vie en rose.

The movie reminded me of a conversation that took place between me and my brother. I was talking to my brother over the internet one day and he was fuming but also being sarcastic. I guess it is running in the family. I asked him what’s wrong? He told me there is one gay (he named him with the Egyptian slang word which is a very nasty one) living with us in the apartment, everyone knows except me. He was so angry about it. My brother does not live in Egypt and he is sharing an apartment with some room mates where he lives. I told him what is your problem with him? He said nothing. I told him, this is personal freedom. My brother has no personal problem with him but he has a cultural problem with being associated with a gay in a place I guess. He probably also cannot digest that the fact that an Arab is a gay. In most of the Middle Eastern countries, masculinity is a big thing, even if being hypocrite about so many other things in life. The second time we talked about his gay roommate was at the Valentine’s Day. He was talking about the big celebrations where he lives and that he saw his roommate with his partner having fun and he was ok about it. My brother is not related to this guy by any means, however he was extremely angry and could not take or tolerate the idea. I do not know what would he have been the situation if we had a brother who is a gay or trans-sexual? I do not want even to think about the answer. But I guess one way of accepting the difference is living the experience and acknowledging it in public which is not happening in any Arab country so far at any level.

The climax of “Ma Vie en Rose” comes at the very end when the mother insists on pulling her son from his fantasy world, but instead of pulling him, she falls down herself to pass out for a while. She wakes up to realize that she fell because instead of reaching out to the reality of her son’s world, she was trying aggressively to bring him to a world where he does not belong. Failure becomes a consequence.

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