Syrian helmer Nidal Al-Dibs’ debut venture “Under the Ceiling” is a poetic collage mixing present-day and decades-spanning reveries, most of them transpiring in an atmospheric apartment with a leaky ceiling. Film’s protag Marwan (Rami Hanna) shared the space overtly with an older, larger-than-life writer friend Ahmad (Fares Helou) and, covertly, with that friend’s young sexy wife Lina (Sulafa Mimar). The death of the writer casts the hero adrift and causes his ties with other people to start unraveling. Past and current acquaintances, neighbors and relatives drop by, but director Al-Dibs seldom fully clarifies these phantom figures’ identities. Colorful but confusing pic’s appeal outside of fest venues will be limited.
Once “Ceiling” begins time-traveling without the benefit of segues, all bets are off. However, as fraught with tension, guilt, renunciation and addictive pleasure as the triangulated relationship may have been, the narrative is unmoored after its most vital element has been removed. Miscellaneous guests wander in and out of the interconnected rooms, spilling out into a courtyard where further dramas await. Attractively enigmatic scenes signal the arrival of a director to watch, but lack of focus eventually upends the entire chronology-juggling enterprise.