The film is centered on the events that portray a state at the time of war and strife. The film begins with a depiction of the building mentioned and its history. The building's significance is in its history as it houses families during a time when the country is going through major political and social transition. After the coup, Gamal Abdel Nasser becomes the new president of the country after King Farouk has been dethroned, the Jacoubian building houses different sets of people and is symbolic in the way it is used in the film. The topmost floors are for families that are low class, so it is a depiction of a sort of slum.
The rooftop is then a representation of a failed state in the sense that the country is undergoing changes but is failing to provide essential amenities to its people such as proper housing and infrastructure. The representation of a sort of a slum in a building's rooftop depicts the poor planning of the country and as such, we can call it a failed state. However, in the same building, we meet the main characters of the story who are housed in the almost unmaintained apartments in the building's main floors. Zaki Pasha El Dessouki is portrayed as a man who though educated and hold a good position, seems to like women and deviate from the Islam culture of the state. This character embodies a failed state in the sense that he represents the Western outlook that has slowly crept into the state to dilute the inherent tenets that are the country's foundations. The state's failure is also depicted by Taha who cannot get enlisted into the army since his father's trade is considered to be too lowly. Out of frustration, he gets an education and joins a militant group. When a state cannot guarantee its youth the chance to find employment and pegs people's advancement on class issues, there is bound to be dissatisfaction. Considered the many youths who have been frustrated by the system to a point where they turn to militant groups who are ready to nurture their dreams and give them a sense of belonging and want. Taha represents the country's people who no longer have a belief in the system and must seek alternative means.
The many ways in which the state has fallen is depicted in the way it has failed to preserve its traditions or to speak up and condemn acts and inclinations that threaten to consume the fundamental beliefs of the nation. Homosexuality is more or less tolerated, there are instances of corruption, which no one speaks about, people are scheming, graft is rampant, and the politics of the nation are centered on dubious deals.
A failed state is also noted by the way it cannot protect the vulnerable in the society. When it reaches a point where people have to compromise their values just to survive, then the state has no business being called the protector of the people. Buthaynas transformation from a loving innocent woman to a bitter scheming woman is out of the realization that she is not protected by anyone and has to use her beauty to make ends meet. The lives and stories of all the characters in the film are connected to bring out the underlying theme of a nation that has wasted its enormous potential and is falling. The people have no principles left in them and this is a representation of the state. Urbanization has rendered people helpless enough to live in bad and poor conditions, the system is corrupt, and there is a sense of doom hanging in the air.
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