“Whether I’m hallucinating or dreaming, I like what I’m seeing.”
Raven Song is the latest International Feature submission from Saudi Arabia. Mohamed Al-Salman’s latest film is a dark comedy set in the beautiful city of Riyadh in 2002. It follows a young man named Nasser as he tackles probably the hardest moment in his life.
The film begins with Nasser, a dropout from engineering school, being diagnosed with a brain tumour. His condition has been causing him to have weird, vivid dreams, where brains are falling from the sky, for example. He doesn’t want to risk getting the surgery as the chances of him having serious side effects, like being unable to talk, is extremely likely as the procedure is challenging and difficult. He also states that he’s feeling fine health-wise, so why risk anything now? Despite the doctor’s advice, Nasser continues his life as usual.
Nasser now works at The Dove Hotel as a front office manager. One day he meets an enigmatic, beautiful, mysterious woman who enters the hotel wanting to see a room, specifically room 227. After examining the room thoroughly, she leaves behind a book and an envelope in one of the drawers and leaves.
Nasser becomes obsessed and infatuated with her. And, with the help of his friend, is determined to write a poem for her, hoping that it’ll attract her attention. But is this all real, or is it a dream?
Mohamed Al-Salman has created a beautiful film, creating a complex character in Nasser, played brilliantly by Asem Alawad. His facial expressions allows the viewer to experience everything that he’s seeing, and feeling and hiding within himself.
The film relies heavily on the usage of birds to convey its message, like ravens, doves, crows, falcons but the key to the film’s success is the delicate way the film tackles such a difficult topic such as having a brain tumour. Nasser, at one point, begins to question whether what he’s experiencing is real or the result of his illness. The most beautiful part of the film is the moment when Nasser realizes that dreams and realities are both the same. They are both real experiences in the brain. “Let your dreams be your poems.” As his condition slowly begins to worsen, his two worlds begin to collide with a dream-like sequence where he finally gets to declare his love to this woman of room 227 with a poem that he wrote for her.