總瀏覽量

2017年4月13日 星期四

Mimosas (含羞草)

Mimosas(含羞草) is my first film at this year's HKIFF. It started off very well and leaves me in great hopes of more films of a similar calibre in the coming days.

In many ways, it's a most unusual film. Certainly not one which one can expect to become an instant box office miracle. But it exudes a magical charm for me. The moment the film starts, I am already drawn in. I see several people, two mules, some women, two male porters. They came to the top of a hill. As far as the eyes can see, one finds mountains and mountains the top of which is covered in snow and above the mountains, nothing but skies. They stop. Some insist on going on. Some express doubt. The old sheik who knows that his days are numbered wants to go to a small  Morrocan town called Sijilmasa, at the foot of Mount Atlas in North Africa, where he expects to be buried at the side of his forefathers. But they got a problem, they do not know the way. Neither does the guide. A discussion follows. But the old sheik is convinced that if there's a will, there's a way and that they should put their faith in Allah. They continue.


Then the scene cuts into another small town, where we find one of the protagonists Ahmed(Ahmed Hammoud)  dishing out taxi jobs to a number of taxi drivers whilst his assistant Said (Said Aaqli), reads out the result of the days' job lottery. One of those selected is Shakib (Shakib ben Omar). Some of those present complain that he can't drive. But he said that he has been a co-driver once or twice and then starts to tell a story of in the Genesis in which the devil was thrown out of heaven because of his pride and not because of his humility. He is regarded by the crowd as strange boy gifted with a sort of gnostic divine insight, although he has received little education in that respect.



Probably someone went back to the town to let them know the Sheik's dilemma and as a result they sent Shakib there to help, hoping that somehow, he would have some insight on which way to go. But in the meantime, the old Sheik dies the following day and again there's another discussion on whether they should go on. Then we hear that Ahmed and Said claim that they know the way and promise to take the corpse of the old sheik there. His family then promise to pay them for the job and head back to town. 

Then the story continues. It centres on the difficulties the caravan party meet on the way, one high mountain after another, one stream after another, getting robbed by bandits on the way, getting lost , losing one of the mules carrying the body of the old sheik's corpse during the night when Ahmed who wants to give up, arranges to have the mule carrying the old sheik's body let loose, losing their way, meeting with a lonely old man(Mohammed Ikrizzi) with his deaf mute daughter Meriam (Ilham Ouiri) who found the lost mule and brings it back to them and joining them on their trek to Sijilmasa. 

Whenever they come to a cross-road, Shakib would pray to Allah and then they would follow whatever direction or path it is that Shakib says  they should take. This goes on until they got robbed by some bandits on horse back who kills the old man who helped them find the lost mule on a path just discovered above in a deep gorge and then they got  robbed again in a deserted river valley when the bandits killed Said and kidnapped Meriam after Ahmed prayed but insincerely

When the film ends, we see Shakib charging with a sword in hand, with Ahmed following, rushing towards the small town inhabited by a desert tribe in the process of hanging Meriam. Will he succeed in rescuing or will both of them die in the mad attack? Whatever it is, one thing is certain, they would have given some meaning to their otherwise meaningless life. As Shahib tells Ahmed "this is the moment" which they have been waiting for to give some semblance of meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence, perhaps to fulfil their destinies as the "mimosas" of the film's title, as light, as insignificant and yet not entirely worthless. They create even for a few moments, a certain elegance in the air..

Thanks to Mauro Herce, the cinematography was simply spectacular. We can feel the desolateness of the desert, the unforgiving starkness of the mountain, the purity of the mountain snow, the magnificence of sunset in the wilderness, the crispness of mountain stream, the ferocity of the torrents,
the lines on the weathered faces of the Arab caravanists, the fear and confusion and helplessness in their eyes when they don't know what to do etc. It's a spiritual allegory of the journey, not only of the dying sheik, but of three of four of those otherwise completely forgettable characters in the dull and dreary existence of some modern day Arabs in Morocco. We simply don't know what we'll see next as we follow their journey across the deserts, the gorges, the valleys and the mountains. And strangely enough, although the pace is slow, it is precisely the snail's pace which gives us ample time to contemplate what is their lives all about. I love this second feature film by Oliver Laxe