Capernaum (2018)

Brief Intro

Capernaum, directed by Nadine Labaki, is a poignant 2018 drama that dives deep into the harsh realities of poverty and neglect in the streets of Beirut. Following the life of a young boy, Zain, who sues his parents for bringing him into a world of suffering, the film is a powerful exploration of human resilience and social injustice.

Literary Devices Used in Capernaum

Literary devices are the backbone of storytelling, adding depth and emotion to narratives. In Capernaum, these devices are skillfully woven throughout the film. Let’s explore 10 key literary devices used in the film.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain’s struggle to survive on the streetsThe streets symbolize a battlefield where Zain fights for his life.
The courtroom scenesThe courtroom represents society’s judgment on the marginalized.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain’s worn-out clothesSymbolize his lost childhood and innocence.
The makeshift home in the amusement parkRepresents the fleeting nature of safety and happiness.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain suing his parentsA child taking adult responsibility to question his birth.
Zain taking care of YonasA child becoming a caretaker to another child.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain’s memories of homeShow the neglect and abuse he endured.
Scenes of his sister SaharHighlight the loss and trauma Zain carries.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain’s outburst in courtEmphasizes his desperation and anger.
Depictions of the overcrowded jailExaggerates the dire conditions to underscore social neglect.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain’s life vs. wealthy childrenHighlights the stark contrasts in society.
Scenes of playful children vs. Zain’s strugglesEmphasizes lost childhood and innocence.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Repeated scenes of Zain runningSymbolizes his ongoing search for freedom and safety.
The use of bars and confinementRepresents the social and physical imprisonment of the poor.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain’s interactions with RahilHint at the impending separation and crisis.
Early scenes of Zain’s resourcefulnessForeshadow his survival skills on the streets.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Zain caring for YonasEvokes deep sympathy and emotional connection.
Zain’s plea in courtStirs profound empathy and moral questioning.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The amusement parkRepresents the illusion of escape and joy amidst suffering.
Zain’s journeyAn allegory for the struggle of the voiceless and marginalized.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies


SymbolismZain’s worn-out clothes symbolize his lost childhood and innocence.
IronyDespite being a child, Zain takes on adult responsibilities, highlighting societal failures.


JuxtapositionRahil’s struggles as an undocumented immigrant are contrasted with her moments of joy with Yonas.
PathosRahil’s plight evokes deep empathy, showcasing the harsh realities of marginalized individuals.


FlashbackSahar’s memories reveal the depth of Zain’s love and the pain of her loss.
MetaphorSahar’s death represents the ultimate consequence of neglect and poverty.


AllegoryYonas symbolizes innocence and the hope for a better future.
HyperboleHis vulnerability exaggerates the stakes of Zain’s protective instincts.

Character Dynamics

The relationships between characters drive the narrative and themes of Capernaum. Zain’s interactions with Rahil and Yonas highlight his innate compassion and resilience, contrasting with his parents’ neglect and societal indifference. These dynamics emphasize themes of survival, familial responsibility, and social justice.

Thematic Analysis

Capernaum delves into several profound themes, using literary devices to accentuate their impact.

Poverty and Neglect

SymbolismZain’s surroundings reflect the pervasive poverty and neglect he endures.
PathosThe dire conditions of Zain’s life evoke a strong emotional response from the audience.

Childhood and Innocence

IronyZain, a child, sues his parents, highlighting the loss of childhood innocence.
MotifScenes of Zain running symbolize his constant struggle to reclaim his lost childhood.

Social Injustice

MetaphorThe courtroom scenes represent societal judgment and the fight for justice.
HyperboleExaggerated depictions of the jail emphasize systemic neglect and injustice.

Survival and Resilience

ForeshadowingEarly scenes of Zain’s resourcefulness hint at his survival instincts.
JuxtapositionThe contrast between Zain’s life and those of wealthier children highlights his resilience.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Capernaum employs various visual and sound techniques to complement its literary devices.

Visual Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismCinematography of the slumsVisually represents the harsh reality of poverty.
MotifRepeated shots of runningEmphasizes Zain’s endless struggle for freedom.

Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
PathosBackground scoreEnhances emotional connection and sympathy.
JuxtapositionContrasting soundscapesDifferentiates the chaos of the streets from moments of brief joy.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene 1: Zain’s Courtroom Speech

Watch the scene

In this powerful scene, Zain’s raw, emotional plea in the courtroom highlights his suffering and the failures of society. The combination of pathos and irony underscores the tragic reality of a child forced to demand justice.

Scene 2: Zain Caring for Yonas

Watch the scene

This scene beautifully showcases Zain’s nurturing side, using pathos and symbolism to depict his transformation from a neglected child to a protector, symbolizing hope amidst despair.

Scene 3: Rahil’s Arrest

Watch the scene

Rahil’s arrest is a heart-wrenching moment, employing hyperbole and juxtaposition to highlight the brutal reality faced by undocumented immigrants and the ripple effect on their loved ones.


Let’s wrap up this analysis with an interactive quiz to test your understanding of the literary devices used in Capernaum. Ready? 🎬📚

Interactive Quiz:

  1. What literary device is used when Zain’s worn-out clothes are shown?
  2. Which device highlights the irony of Zain suing his parents?
  3. How does the motif of running enhance the theme of survival?
    • A) It symbolizes freedom.
    • B) It represents Zain’s constant struggle.
    • C) It shows his playful nature.