Bab' Aziz: The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul
NEW YORK -- The third part of Tunisian director Nacer Khemir's so-called Desert Trilogy, this highly stylized and poetic film is unlikely to register as anything more than an exotic curiosity for anyone not fascinated by the intricacies of Sufi mysticism.
What "Bab' Aziz" lacks in narrative clarity it makes up for in visual and musical splendor, and the fact that its co-screenwriter is Tonino Guerra ("Red Desert") makes it of more than passing interest to film buffs.
The film's framing device revolves around the blind elderly dervish Bab' Azis (Parviz Shahinkhou) and his young granddaughter (Maryam Hamid) traveling through the desert in search of a legendary conference of dervishes that takes place every 30 years. To pass the time and distract her from the obstacles in their path, the dervish relates the legendary tale of a long-ago prince who lost his kingdom but gained insight to his soul by his endless staring at his own reflection in a small pool of water in the desert.
Other mystical tales are presented via the introduction of figures they encounter on their journey, including a man seeking revenge on the dervish who murdered his brother and a poet who has fallen in love with a dervish who abandoned him.
The story culminates with a depiction of the conference, filled with vibrant Sufi music and dance.
Gorgeously photographed (though the magnificently barren landscapes on display could hardly come across any other way) by Mahmoud Kalari, "Bab' Aziz" fairly demands to be experienced on the big screen.