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Vittorio De Sica
In this film inspired by the ancient erotic and mysterious tales of the Middle East, the main story concerns an innocent young man who comes to fall in love with a slave who selected him as her master. After his foolish error causes their separation, he travels in search of her. Various other travelers who recount their own tragic and romantic experiences include stories of a young man who becomes enraptured by a mysterious woman on his wedding day, and a man who is determined to free a woman from a demon. Written by
"The truth is not revealed in one dream, but in many..."
This film obscures the boundaries between myth, dream and cinema, or rather, perhaps, it helps create a new kind of art altogether of the three. As tales of myth, the interwoven stories in this film act as lessons of love and heartbreak, collective dreams and fantasies of staggering beauty. Destiny is a major theme in this film, as though human beings all live the same lives, as though humankind's greatest desires and fears are gifts and curses from the gods -- the end residue remaining in the beauty and wisdom of poetry, spoken and visual. Are the concepts of fate and determinism the source of this mythical beauty? Perhaps. Maybe poetry and truth come from a resignation and surrender to forces which humans will never ultimately understand, but can only either submit to or try to battle. But fate is the result of chance and choice -- often hard, foolish choices taken in the chance encounter of beauty and dreams.
All of the episodes have something great to them: the story of Nur in search of his slave lover Zummuru; the story of the flighty, fickle Aziz and the true Aziza; the story of the artist trying to free is lover from the capture of a demon, etc. All of the stories are linked by the parable of the dove freeing the pigeon, only to become enslaved herself. All those who are free owe their freedom to the burden of some else's slavery and suffering, and someone else's great poetry and artistry. Could this be the truth revealed in many dreams? Maybe it's the main truth Pasolini strives toward; there must be others too.
Ennio Morricone has created some very beautiful music for this film. The harp strings overwhelm us unexpectedly when we first encounter the story of the pigeon and the dove. The settings are amazing, throughout Yemen, Ethiopia, Iran and other locations. Only Pasolini can get these kind of performances from his actors -- at once obvious and staged, while also unselfconscious and natural. The visual style is typical Pasolini, using only natural light.
The only other films I've ever seen that remotely resemble this one are the films of Jean Cocteau. Filmed myths of ageless beauty we can only stagger out of the theater upon viewing and at some point on the way home thank these masters for their hard choices and their slavery to art.
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