May is Mental Health Month, helping raise awareness about the importance of mental health worldwide. Modern Egyptian films and series have recently attempted to tackle mental health issues and remove the nationwide stigma surrounding them. However, let us honour the many classic films that addressed mental illness long before people knew much about it.
1- Al Laila Al Akheira (1963)
The film’s protagonist, Nadia Burhan Sadiq (Faten Hamama), suffers from post-traumatic amnesia and spends 15 years living as her dead sister Fawzia, who was killed during a bombing strike.
So that his daughter wouldn’t grow up without a parent, Fawzia’s husband took advantage of his sister-in-law’s amnesia and convinced her that she was actually his wife. When her memory returns, the husband manipulates her into thinking she is crazy to cover up his actions, further sending her mental wellness down a spiral.
2- Be’r El Herman (1969)
As depicted in the film, the protagonist (Soad Hosni) has split personality disorder, where she shows up as Nahed, the innocent girl, in the morning, and Mervat, the wild lady, in the evening. A psychiatrist later diagnoses her condition and finds that it stems from a childhood psychiatric complex brought on by her father’s violence to her mother after he learns of her betrayal.
3- Safah El Nesaa (1970)
via El Wattan News
The iconic actor Hassan Zayed brought back the comic portrayal of psychopaths in this film with his character of Mimi, a serial killer who was deeply attached to his mother and now kills women and keeps wax casts of their bodies to ensure he never loses them again. Aside from his psychopathic condition, he suffers from the classic symptoms of the Oedipus complex, an intense obsession and attachment to his mother.
4- Khaly Balak Men ‘Alak (1985)
via Zaman Post
Salwa, played by Sherihan, is a psychopath with social phobia; she becomes terrified whenever anyone, especially men, comes near her for fear that they will harass her. The psychiatrist, Wael (Adel Imam), meets her in a psychiatric facility several times in the film.
The psychoanalyst is aware of the specifics of her condition and knows that she is not insane but rather mentally sick. Knowing the trauma she endured at the hands of her stepfather’s attempted rape, he helps with her transportation and treatment at the hospital.
5- Zoget Ragoul Mohem (1987)
via El Balad News
Legendary actor, Ahmed Zaki, portrays Officer Hisham, who is obsessed with authority and repression. Even his mild-mannered wife, Mona (Mervat Amin), must endure his harsh rituals. Hisham has paranoia after being discharged because he thinks he is still important and powerful; therefore, he expects people to treat him with deference even though he’s no longer in the force. The deterioration of his mental health leads him to murder his father-in-law and take his own life.