Considering it clocks in at well over six hours, today brings just a meager portion of Miguel Gomes’ epic Arabian Nights available to view. Featured in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, we have around 15 minutes spread across three clips. The title and the plot of the film itself are based on the collection of epic stories within One Thousand and One Nights, one of the most well-known cultural products from the Arab world. Though this amount of footage would be considered a deluge if the film had a normal run-time, what is revealed — an array of beautiful colors and settings that seem but the beginning of all that it has to offer — merely piques the interest and leaves you wanting more.
One of our most-anticipated Cannes films, we said, “The three features Miguel Gomes has produced thus far represent a major and idiosyncratic voice, one as concerned with the various effects of structural conceits as the significance of any particular image. We’re lucky to have him making films, especially when his next will take things even further: adapting one of literature’s best-known collections by conforming its core to events that occurred in Portugal over the course of a single year — by the sound of it, marrying the long-established with that which is just in the distance. If all goes well, Arabian Nights, clocking in at over 6 hours across three parts, will undoubtedly be one of the year’s greatest films.”
Check out the clips below, which includes English subtitles, and see the full trailer here.
Volume 1, The Restless One
In which Scheherazade tells of the restlessness that befell the country: “It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that in a sad country among all countries, where people dream of mermaids and whales, unemployment spreads. In certain places, forests burn into the night despite the falling rain; men and women long to set out to sea in the middle of Winter. Sometimes there are animals that talk although it is highly improbable that they are listened to. In this country, where things are not what they appear to be, men of power promenade on camels and hide permanent and shameful erections; they await the moment when taxes are collected so they can pay a certain wizard whom…”. And seeing the morning break, Scheherazade fell silent.
Volume 2, The Desolate One
In which Scheherazade tells of how desolation invaded men: “It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that a distressed Judge will cry instead of giving out her sentence on a night when all three moons are aligned. A runaway murderer will wander through the land for over forty days and will teletransport himself to escape the Guard while dreaming of prostitutes and partridges. A wounded cow will reminisce about a thousand-year-old olive tree while saying what she must say, which will sound none less than sad! The residents of a tower block in the suburbs will save parrots and piss inside lifts while surrounded by dead people and ghosts; including in fact a dog that…”. And seeing the morning break, Scheherazade fell silent. “Damned tales! If things continue this way my daughter will surely end up with her throat slit!” – the Grand-Vizier, Scheherazade’s father, thinks in his palace in Bagdad.
Volume 3, The Enchanted One
In which Scheherazade doubts that she will still be able to tell stories to please the King, given that what she has to tell weighs three thousand tonnes. She therefore escapes from the palace and travels the Kingdom in search of pleasure and enchantment. Her father, the Grand-Vizier, arranges to meet her at the Ferris wheel, and Scheherazade resumes her narration: “Auspicious King, in old shanty towns of Lisbon there was a community of bewitched men who, in all rigour and passion, dedicated themselves to teaching birds to sing…”. And seeing the morning break, Scheherazade fell silent.
Arabian Nights premieres at Cannes Film Festival.