Moral absolutism assigns a certain degree of inherent goodness or evilness to all our actions. It further suggests that there cannot be diametrically different opinions about a certain undertaking, and if something falls in the ‘wrong’ category, then it has to be universally frowned upon. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant is perhaps the most relevant and well-known ambassador of this theory, and he said that life without morality has no value. Thus, stealing, no matter done by whom and under what circumstance, will always, always be considered wrong. No amount of contextualisation or consequentialism can ever alter that.
Chabname Zariab’s short film on Netflix, Hizia, experiments and plays with this ethical and moral dilemma, and showcases how things aren’t as simple, or as black and white as they appear at first glance. Morality and ethics are sometimes momentarily compromised because of the barrage of emotions that blankets a certain situation. Like several stellar evocative pieces of cinema and literature, the film puts you in a tight spot, making you wonder, “What would I do here? Whose side am I eventually on?” It’s a slippery slope, and the lines that demarcate the good and bad are feeble, blurred thin.
This French film charges into action from the very first shot, as we see a young man (Fahim; possibly a criminal) running frantically as he is being chased by the police. In a moment of confusing exasperation, he runs into Louise (Brigitte Rouan), hands her a bag, and makes a run for his life, only to be arrested minutes after. A flustered Louise, with her face soaked in evident expressions of bewilderment, receives both a shock and an unprecedented bolt of joy to see that the bag has a baby. What will she do? Will she hand it over to the police? Should she just raise the child? Does that tick off the ethical laws? Or is she steering away from her moral code if she decides to care for the kid?
We gradually come to learn that Louise and her husband are a childless couple (“You could not give me a child, so I will raise this one”, she says in a rage of anger.) We, as audiences, are bound to have a completely divided opinion on Louise; a flawed woman, but for all the right reasons. We can sympathise with her as her maternal instincts spring to life in no time, but in doing so, we also teeter on the edge of an ethical quandary, It is possibly the most singular happiness of her life; to be able to care for a child and raise her as she would have raised her own progeny. She keeps a milk bottle handy, buys her clothes, and excitedly even buys a toy for the little girl to play with- Sophie the giraffe. In these moments, she seems to be turning into a child herself, although we can sense that the plug on her happiness will be pulled soon. And in a 19 minute short film, this consequent moment cannot be too far behind.
Short films have a profound challenge in front of them; to condense a lot of emotion and thrill into a limited timeframe, while also not indulging in in-your-face explanations. When we realise that Fahim’s only fault was stealing milk, it puts a lot of things into perspective, and we even go from hating him to making room for a soft corner for him. When one’s reasons behind stealing are so heart wrenchingly real, which side of the fence do we really stand on?
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.