Oct 17, 2016

The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (Ben Rivers, 2015)

A contender for the title of the year (and a blessing for the reviewer in need of a few more words), The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers is unconventional, to say the least. Its intriguing, sort of meta-narrative is divided in two clearly distinct parts - initially, it keeps track of a troubled film production in Morocco, whereas during the second half, it turns into the adaptation of Paul Bowles's short story A Distant Episode.

The "making of" in question is Mimosas whose director suffers the same fate as the linguistics professor from the aforementioned literary work. After wandering off the set - irritated by the ever-growing obstacles - he is attacked by Reguibat bandits who beat him up, cut out his tongue and force him to dance in a costume covered with tin can lids. Reduced to a mute desert jester and mockingly addressed as a king, he is not only depersonilized, but dehumanized as well.

One might recognize the irony in this poor man's misfortune - after all, his collaboration with the locals - albeit not of a slave-driving kind - is for the sake of entertainment. We can go as far as to say it is a belated act of revenge against colonialism, but even so, Rivers's fellow colleague seems to be a victim to sympathize with. Another way of looking at the film is through the prism of Westerners' fear or misappreciation of an exotic, introvert culture and vice-versa. The coping with a language barrier, the pains of artistic creation and the quest for freedom along the thorny road are some of the themes this meditative, deliberately paced docu-fiction is also infused with.

As you might already guessed, The Sky... is not easily digestible, yet the visuals are frequently so hypnotizing that you lose a sense of time. Shooting on 16mm, Ben Rivers captures the austere beauty of a hostile craggy environment, ramshackle stone villages and bright yellow sunsets of both opening and closing scenes. And his protagonist's attire adds an esoteric touch to the raw poetry of images.

No comments:

Post a Comment