THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS | Dir. Ben Rivers | 2015 | UK | Arabic/Spanish/French with English subtitles | 98 min | PG
THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS is a labyrinthine and epic film that moves between documentary, fantasy and fable. It was shot against the staggering beauty of the Moroccan landscape, from the rugged terrain of the Atlas Mountains to the stark and surreal emptiness of the Moroccan Sahara, with its encroaching sands and abandoned film sets. Rivers’ work contains multiple narratives, the major strand being an adaptation of A Distant Episode, the savage short story by Paul Bowles. The film also features the enigmatic young film director Oliver Laxe, whose onscreen presence becomes interwoven with the multiple narratives that co-exist amidst the various settings of Rivers’ cinematic exploration.
The work is an ambitious excavation of the illusion of filmmaking and the art of documentary. Shot in 16mm cinemascope, the story of Paul Bowles is combined with ‘behind-the scenes’ footage of other film productions to form a monumental and multi-layered feature film. THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS is thus concerned with the telling and re-telling of stories, incorporating anecdotal tales and bringing together constructed fiction, oral tradition and the documentary format, all the time moving through varying levels of reality. Sound adds to this layering technique, exploring the rich musical heritage of the region that so fascinated Bowles, playing an important role in the dream-like logic of the film which elides fiction and non-fiction.
THE SKY TREMBLES is the third film in Calgary Cinematheque's Contemporary World Cinema Series. One-time opportunities to find rising masters and see critically acclaimed, under-exposed world cinema.