The Wedding Song: A Struggle for Security


Karen Albou’s The Wedding Song begins with a scene in which a small child sings a song about a beautiful bride who has all the necessary outward appearances for her wedding. Hauntingly, the child ends the song with the line, “But the bride is missing something.” The narrative centers around two girls, Nour, a Muslim, and Myriam, a Jew, best friends who are both brides-to-be. Throughout the film, Albou provides the audience with hints as to what each bride is missing, but it is not until the final frame that the viewer can vividly see what each bride truly desires.

            Set during WWII, during the German occupation of Tunisia, war provides each character a further sense of urgency throughout their respective struggles with marriage and intimacy. Nour’s lover, Khaled, pressures Nour into sexual acts and intimacy before she is ready. The result is a relationship that is based on passion, but with no abiding sense of love at the core. Myriam does not experience the passion of a lover, but is instead forced to marry Raoul for the monetary assistance he can provide to her family. This lack of respective fulfillment leaves each girl longing for what the other has. With Nour experiencing an overbearing, sexual pressure from her lover, and Myriam facing persecution from the Nazi regime as a Jew and from Raoul’s expectation of a son, each character feels a loss of love and companionship, love that is not fulfilled by their respective husbands.

            Before the final scene, Albou finally gives the viewer that last line of the unfinished wedding song, “The bride is missing her husband.” On the night of Nour’s wedding, after having relations with Khaled, an air raid strikes their home in Tunisia. Nour flees to a shelter a safety, away from the presence of her new husband. It is here that Albou offers an unforgettable image. The build up of each girl’s story culminates in their moment together at the shelter. Nour and Myriam find each other, and engage in an embrace that transcends all boundaries. In the midst of their differences, Nour and Myriam receive in that embrace what they were missing from their husbands, love and acceptance, love that is not based on expectation or sexual fulfillment, but who they each are at their core. This unforgettable scene is striking in its poetry, and hope in spite of hardship. Each is looking for a way to be loved without regard, a presence that is absent from where it should be, within the bonds of marriage. In contrast to the dangers of the air raid, in that embrace, it is apparent that each girl feels a safety previously denied from them. It is a poetic resolution for each character’s struggle to find a desperately sought after hope in the midst of overwhelming oppression. Religious and cultural barriers are broken down in Nour and Myriam’s embrace, resulting in the gain of a life-giving love that provides security for the present, and promise for the future. 


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