As far as fable imports go, Bab’Aziz: The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul is a step up from the Disney-grade moralism of Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint, but it’s even less memorable. Shot in Iran and Tunisia, the film’s archetypical stories about faith, mortality, and love take place in an indistinct time period under the hot desert sun. After missing a bus to go home, Ishtar (Maryam Hamid) follows her blind old grandfather Bab’Aziz (Parviz Shahinkhou) for days looking for a reunion of dervishes. Like a Middle Eastern road movie, Bab’Aziz is made up of a number of chance encounters with other wanderers passing through mosques and camps. Nacer Khemir’s nod to dervish dance is a camera that repeatedly spins in circles, inducing characters’ feverish dreams about nonexistent palaces and imagined lovers, but the film’s routine fairy tale otherwise starves for any kind of surrealism. Like Akira Kurosawa’s similarly themed but more beautiful Dreams, Khemir’s stories are more exhausting than poignant, given how vaguely they grapple with the themes they purport to enlighten audiences about. By film’s end, one character greets death saying, “This is my marriage with the eternal,” but it’s hard to take the sentiment seriously. Even though it reaches for the mythical, the surprisingly drab-looking Bab’Aziz can’t help but feel earthbound.
- Bavaria Film International
- 98 min
- Nacer Khemir
- Nacer Khemir, Tonino Guerra
- Nacer Khemir
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