Capernaum Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Capernaum plot summary, meaning of the ending, essence of the movie, similar movies.

Not only about poverty: the hidden meaning of the film “Capernaum”.

Country: Lebanon, France, Cyprus, Qatar, United Kingdom

Genre: drama

Year of production: 2018

Directed by: Nadine Labaki

Actors: Zayn Al Raffea, Yordanos Shiferou, Boluwatife Treaja Bankole

tagline: “What they prefer to keep quiet about”

Awards and nominations: In 2019, the film received an Oscar nomination.

Nadine Labaki’s painting has a lot in common with Chloe Zhao’s “Land of the Nomads”: firstly, it is a near-documentary story with appropriate shooting, and secondly, it also shows real life in all its cruelty. However, the meaning of the film “Capharnaum” is much deeper.

This film is a dramatic look at the vale of human sorrow. First of all, it deals with a terrible gap between what any person is called to, and what many people who were born “in the wrong place at the wrong time” are really doomed to.

What is the movie about

Brief description of the content of the film “Capernaum”. In the center of the plot is the fate of a boy named Zane. He is only 12 years old, but he has already been in a juvenile prison for stabbing a man. There, the boy saw a TV program that raised the topic of domestic violence against children and adolescents. So an interesting idea came to his mind. He called the show host and said he wanted to sue his parents.

Zein Al RaffeaZane is played by Zayn Al Raffea. Frame from the film.

Zayn is given a lawyer and a court hearing is organized, where his parents are summoned. Starting the case, the judge asks the boy what is the reason for such a demarche. And Zane starts talking.

According to him, in the family in which he was born, there are a lot of children – he does not know their exact number. None of the guys have documents, which means that they do not exist for the state.

Zane was most attached to his sister Sugar, who was a year younger. Together they sold juices and vegetables on the street, thereby earning money for the family. In addition, the boy worked as a loader in the Assad store, which had views of the Sahara. The man passed through Zane all sorts of goodies for the girl, but he, perfectly understanding the meaning of his “offerings”, threw them away.

One morning, the boy saw blood on his sister’s sleeping place and realized that she was becoming a woman, which means that she would soon be given to Assad. He told Sugar about this and together the guys decided to hide this fact from their parents. To do this, in the Assad store, the guy pulled off the pads and gave them to the girl.

Parents, meanwhile, thought about sending Zane to school. To a greater extent, however, they were concerned that in this case they would receive clothes and food from the state. Not wanting to offend Assad, they decided to arrange with him to have Zayn work at his shop after school. He agreed, but in return he wooed Sahar.

Returning home, Zane found Assad visiting – next to him was Sahar dressed as a bride … The guy realized that very soon his beloved sister would be married to an adult man and decided to act.

He stole groceries from the store, found out the cost of the ticket, packed his things and went for the Sahara. However, the girl had already been prepared for marriage – she was collected and sent by force to the house of her future husband. Zane fought desperately for his sister, but his parents turned out to be stronger … Their calculation was simple and terrible – by marrying Sahar, they maintained housing and good neighborly relations with Assad.

Yordanos SlateYordanos Shiferou played the role of Rachel. Frame from the film.

On this day, Zane ran away from home – he got on the bus and went where his eyes look. Unexpectedly, an old man dressed as a cockroach man, who worked as a barker for rides, sat down next to him. The boy decided to get off the bus after him and spent the rest of the day and all night at the amusement park. And then the cleaning lady Rachel noticed him. After feeding a hungry Zane, she introduced herself to him by another name. Such a conspiracy was explained simply: the young woman was in the country illegally and under a false name. The boy needed a job, but Rachel could no longer help him, and then he went to roam the area, offering his services. However, he was unlucky…

He returned to Rachel and asked her for some food. Taking pity, the young woman took him with her. In the evening, getting ready for work, she asked Zane to look after her son Jonas – and the guy who had many brothers and sisters did a great job of it.

Rachel was in dire need of a new residence permit, and the only way to get it was through Aspro, a market trader who knew how to “get” forged documents. Aspro’s services cost a lot – $1,500. The girl did not have that kind of money, and the merchant offered her a deal – he would straighten her documents for half the price, but in addition she must give him her son. Aspro promised to sell the boy to a rich family.

Rachel was shocked, and the merchant suggested that she think for a few days. In desperation, the young mother turned to Jonas’s father for help. He stole her employer’s certificate, thanks to which Rachel could change guarantors and receive money. With a request to become her new guarantors, she turned to the employees of the amusement park, but this idea also failed. Then Rachel sold her hair, left to call her mother, but never returned – she was arrested because of the expired residence permit.

Sedra IzamSedra Izam played the role of Sugar. Frame from the film.

After waiting for Rachel for a long time, Zane went looking for her and ran into Aspro, who gave him a soda. From him, he learned of Rachel’s arrest and returned to her house to continue to look after Jonas. There, in the market, the boy met a Syrian girl merchant. She told him about the humanitarian aid that was given to refugees from Syria and that they promised to help her go to Sweden – in particular, Aspro promised to send her there for $300.

Zane was also on fire with this idea, but he wanted to eat more. Going to the distribution point for humanitarian aid, he made up a story about lost documents and received food. Suddenly, an entrepreneurial vein woke up in him – using legal and not very methods, he began to slowly earn money for a trip to Sweden. However, his plan collapsed – once returning home, he found a new lock on the door – the owner of the hut simply rented it to other illegal immigrants and, of course, refused to give the boy the money he earned.

Having fallen into a desperate situation, Zane went to Aspro and, shedding tears, sold him Jonas, whom the merchant promised to arrange in a good family. The man asked Zane to bring at least some documents so that he could smuggle him abroad. So the boy had to return to his parents’ house.

While he was looking for documents, his mother entered the room, dressed in a mourning dress. The father, telling Zane that he did not have any documents, drove him away. Feeling something was wrong, the boy asked his mother what happened. She reluctantly told him that Sahar had been hospitalized and died. Grabbing a knife, Zane rushed to Assad. The parents ran after him, but they could not stop him – having attacked the man, the boy inflicted several strong blows on him with a knife. He was arrested and sent to a juvenile prison. There his mother visited him. She managed to remove the mourning, because she became pregnant again …

This is the end of the long flashback and the action of the picture “Capernaum” returns to the courtroom.

boy among womenFrame from the film.

Ending explanation

Movie ending explanation. Closer to the finale, the judge hears evidence. Rachel comes to Zane’s hearing and there she learns what happened to Jonas. She does not blame the boy, because he did what he could. Survivor Assad also comes to the meeting and explains how Sahar died. The girl became pregnant from him, then she began to bleed, and she died on the threshold of the hospital. According to the man, he could not even think that a girl who herself is still a child cannot get pregnant …

At the trial, Zane declares that he can no longer tolerate the irresponsible behavior of adults towards children and asks the court to forbid his parents to produce offspring again – he does not want his brothers and sisters to have to grow up in the same hell.

Meanwhile, the authorities begin to take an interest in Aspro’s personality. In the warehouses, they find dozens of sold people and among them baby Jonas. After getting Rachel’s baby back, they send them back to Ethiopia.

Zane eventually gets his own papers. Being photographed for a passport, the boy for the first time in a very long time, smiles …

The meaning of the ending of the film “Capernaum” can be understood if we consider that this is not so much a work of art as a documentary. All the roles in this film were played by non-professional actors, and the leading actor had to endure something similar. Thanks to his work in the cinema, the boy went to Norway, took his whole family with him and started a new life there. I would like to believe that his hero’s dream of Sweden has also come true…

Fadi Yousef and Kawsar Al HaddadFrame from the film.

The meaning of the film Capernaum Explained

To understand the hidden meaning inherent in the picture, you need to remember that Capernaum is the city of Galilee, in which Jesus Christ lived and performed miracles for a long time. In his interpretations of the Gospel, the famous Orthodox theologian Theophylact of Bulgaria translates the name of the ancient city as “House of Consolation”. However, he also has another interpretation. For example, there is a colloquial word “capernaum” in modern French. It means “chaos”. In the Empire in the 19th century, this was the name given to “bad places” – almshouses, brothels and taverns.

Thus, in the very name of the settlement and the film there is a contradiction between what should be and what actually is. If this contradiction is “taken into circulation” – we begin to develop it to the maximum and generalize, we can draw a paradoxical conclusion: it is better to never be born, because any life visualizes the notorious gap between the expected ideal and reality. It is filled with joys (small and short-lived) and sufferings (long-term or permanent). Accordingly, the absence of life means the absence of suffering. That is, not to exist is a blessing.

This thought (mystically strong and terrible) runs like a refrain throughout the film. Boy Zane carries it through his entire short life. By the way, the boy’s name means “Being”. That is, it can be assumed that his image symbolizes humanity as a whole.

Presumably (the boy has no documents) Zayn is 12 years old. He never went to school and can’t even write his name. From early childhood, he works and looks after his younger brothers and sisters. It is all to blame for the inhuman conditions of life to which he was initially doomed by the very fact of his birth.

Nadine LabakiThe role of Nadine was played by Nadine Labaki. Frame from the film.

The common expression says that poverty is not a vice. However, deliberately giving birth to children in such conditions, dooming them to torment, is not even vicious, but criminal.

Zane’s parents put the production of children on stream. For them, babies are not people, but means to achieve any goals. They wanted to send Zane to study in order to receive financial assistance, little Sahar was married to an adult man in order to have a “secured” son-in-law. According to statistics, the vast majority of children continue to live the same way as their parents – only a few manage to break out into a normal life. Knowing this, Zane starts a rebellion against such injustice. That is why he sues his father and mother – they, and not someone else, he considers guilty of everything that happens to him and his brothers and sisters.

Rachel, an illegal migrant from Ethiopia, stands in stark contrast to the boy’s parents. The young woman, who bears a biblical name, loves her child and sincerely sympathizes with Zane, and in his face and all such children.

Capernaum is a cry for help. Of course, it may seem that this is a tear squeezer that does not solve the problem globally and was filmed exclusively for the Western viewer, so that he suddenly realizes how well he lives, simply because he was more fortunate than the people shown in the picture.

However, in search of the essence of the film, you should look at the picture deeper. It tells not only about social injustice and the conflict between the “ideal” and the “real”. The boy’s name is Zane, the film is called Capernaum. In this regard, one can make a timid assumption that his judgment with his parents symbolizes the eternal judgment and dispute between humanity and the Creator. After all, the question of why the innocent suffer – the question of the notorious tear of a child – always remains open.

barefoot on the attractionFrame from the film.

Similar films

Here are a few films similar in meaning to Capernaum:

  • “City of God” (Brazil, France, 2002). Rocket, Kid Fishka and Benny live in one of Brazil’s most dangerous favelas. At first they just watch the daily crime, but gradually the underworld drags them in.
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (UK, India, 2008). Young Jamal, a native of the Mumbai slums, participates in the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and is on the verge of a big win. But not everyone likes it.
  • “Lion” (Australia, UK, USA, India, 2016). When Sar was five years old, he got lost and ended up in the slums. The only thing he has left is the hope of finding his family.
  • “Invisible Children” (France, Italy, 2005). Seven children are trying to survive in difficult conditions.
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