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The House Of Sand And Fog

The House Of Sand And Fog

By Patrick Samuel • March 22nd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Original release: December 26th, 2003
Running time: 126 minutes

Director: Vadim Perelman
Writers: Shawn Lawrence Otto, Vadim Perelman, Andre Dubus III (novel)

Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jonathan Ahdout, Navi Rawat, Ron Eldard

The House Of Sand And Fog

It’s funny how one little mistake can have such an impact, not just on our own lives, but the lives of those around us. Like a tiny pebble, thrown into a large pond, the ripples spread outward – seemingly without end. The hardest thing is admitting to these mistakes and taking responsibility for carelessness, naivety, or just plain stupidity on our part. It’s something I’ve come to learn the hard way – like all important lessons – and while it doesn’t make dealing with these problems any easier, it means we can actually start to.

The House Of Sand And Fog, at its core, is a story I can painfully relate to. Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) is sinking into a deep depression after her husband walks out on her. She lives alone in a house in San Francisco and although her family would help her with what she’s going through, she doesn’t make it easy for them with the walls she hides behind, both physically and emotionally.

In her state of depression, Kathy ignores the outside world. She doesn’t open her mail either, and therefore doesn’t know about the eviction notices that have been sent to her erroneously for non-payment of county taxes. The Sheriff’s Deputy, Lester Burdon (Ron Eldard), arrives to forcibly evict her from her home and this is the first time she hears of the matter. Not only that, but she also finds out the house is to be auctioned off. Feeling sorry for her, Burdon advises her to seek legal advice to get her home back.

Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley), a former colonel in the Iranian military, sees an advert in the newspaper for the auction and buys the house for a quarter of its real value. Having fled Iran with his wife, Nadereh (Shohreh Aghdashloo), son Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout) and daughter Soraya (Navi Rawat), Behrani maintains a life beyond his family’s means so as not to bring shame on them. He works as a construction worker by day and a convenience store clerk by night, but hopes to renovate the house and sell it to secure their future.

The House Of Sand And Fog

Kathy drives by the house and is furious to see construction workers already getting on with the renovations. She confronts them but injures herself in the process and when Nadereh and Esmail take her inside, she becomes even more enraged and determined to get her house back from them. Events begin to spiral out of control despite Kathy’s attorney assuring her this is all the county’s fault and can be rectified. Behrani refuses to accept the offer of his money back in return for the house. Kathy then starts to manipulate Burdon into helping her. In the process he ruins his marriage and breaks the law by making threats to Behrani, which lands him with a reprimand from Internal Affairs.

It all comes to a head when Burdon spots Nadereh and Behrani carrying an unconscious Kathy to the bedroom. Without knowing what’s really going on, he breaks in and holds them all captive until one agrees to sell the house back to the other. It’s not enough to prevent the ensuing tragedies that will occur in the film’s final minutes though, making this entire struggle between them meaningless. In one way or another, both Behrani and Kathy will end up relinquishing ownership of the house.

What we see in The House Of Sand And Fog can easily happen to any one of us, and it does. Perhaps not ending in the same way, but certainly beginning with something as trivial as not opening a piece of mail. I’ve had my own experiences with The House Of Sand And Fogthis, having placed unopened letters in a draw for months, refusing to deal with urgent matters while I sank deeper into a depression as a result of other untreated emotional problems.

It too ended disastrously and The House Of Sand And Fog was released at a time when I was still reeling from the consequences of not dealing with things as they were happening. Watching the film, I started to revisit those mistakes in my mind and began to see alternate routes I could have taken and how different life would have been, had I acted sooner. Still, it was a lesson I needed to learn and those mistakes will never happen again, but for Kathy, we wonder – what happens next. Her future seems even more uncertain.

Through it superb direction, cinematography and acting, the film teeters between heartbreaking and infuriating. We side with Kathy and also with Behrani and his family and want the situation to be resolved peacefully between them, but we feel it’s impossible as the tension escalates. It’s a film I found very difficult to watch, but one that will always stay with me. I wasn’t keen to revisit my own mistakes but once I did I found I could finally move past them. If you’ve been through something like this, then you know it’s something that can happen. That makes The House Of Sand And Fog a very real and emotional film, and seeing it, maybe just once in your life, might be enough to make sure the same thing never happens to you.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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