Suddenly, in Beirut, bodies begin to appear, drained of blood, with two small punctures near the jugular. They are brought to forensic expert and family physician Khalil Shams (Carlos Chahine) for autopsy. A tall and attractive single man, keen on scuba-diving, he has just returned to work after convalescing from an illness. As the deaths pile up, he begins to experience increasingly strange physical symptoms, including bouts of pain and fever. Before long, he finds himself roaming the streets of Beirut at night, impelled by a sinister compulsion for blood. In film, Beirut has served as the setting for many a fiction, but never before has it been home to a vampire murder mystery. Less focused on the story of the murders or the police investigation, The Last Man's dramatic charge emanates from the muted horror of a man witnessing himself transform into a monster-an experience all too familiar in a society recovering from civil war. Director Salhab borrows the mythology of vampirism to illuminate poetically, allegorically and philosophically how individuals internalize violence and how their subjectivity gradually mutates as a result. The vampire figure is moreover a being, beyond representation, that eludes death-the opposite of the war martyrs whose photographs hang in Beirut's homes, and whose executioners may roam the city's streets. Carlos Chahine's stellar performance carries to exquisite measure the brooding, entrancing, slow pace, while the film's cinematography is remarkable: rarely has Beirut been filmed in winter, and even more rarely has its magical Levantine light been captured with such finesse.
GHASSAN SALHAB was born on May 4, 1958 in Dakar, Senegal. Apart from his own films as director, Salhab has worked on a number of screenplays in Lebanon and in France. He teaches at ALBA (Acadmie Libanaise des Beaux Arts) and USEK (Universit Saint Esprit of Kaslik) in Lebanon and has also written a number of articles that have appeared in specialized periodicals. Salhab is a writer/director of feature films, several of which gained festival recognition: Terra incognita (2002) was an official selection at Cannes Film Festival; Beyrouth fantome (1998) was selected for film festivals in Nantes, Göteborg, Carthage, Brugge, Thran and Valencia.