The desert is a poetic constraint that regenerates when people and their lives inhabit it. The wind blows over arid environments creating a fresh canvas at the light break of the sun. Oliver Laxe’s Mimosas plays out like a classical western film where there are potential double crossers, semi-saviors, and suspenseful stand offs. Yet this movie also offers so much more.
A Moroccan caravan escorts a dying sheikh to the place he wishes to be buried in. A worker called Shakib (Shakib Ben Omar) is sent to lead the caravan. Shakib is also a preacher, but his co-workers are reluctant to listen to him. As he reaches the caravan Shakib butts heads with two members of the group, Saïd (Saïd Aagil) and Ahmed (Ahmed Hammoud). While Shakib senses spiritually which path they should take Saïd and Ahmed have ulterior motives and suggest another way.
The film is replete with gorgeous sites of the desert. Much of the scenes with the caravan look like they could be set at any time, and others, in particular Shakib’s workplace bring the viewer back to modern days. New model cars rush through the sand lifting dust and sun like fire reminiscent of Mad Max chase scenes. This happens while the medieval-like caravan traverses hills and perilous mountainous regions. These landscapes play out documentary style with wide lenses and naturally clear light. The minimalist narrative accentuates the mystery of these settings. Questions of faith and happenstance arrive to the main characters in moments of tension and conflict. As the caravan faces an attack, the group must disperse and hide. This all occurs in a canyon separated by a river. The canyon is vast with little nooks to run away from bullets. Within a few minutes, tragedies and miracles occur leaving the characters confused and shell shocked. Scenes like this play out abruptly and sometimes out of sync from the rest of the film.
Laxe’s film sometimes switches from endurance test to meditative repetition, but it is an art house rendering which leaves room open for analysis and interpretation. So much can be said and written from the long shots of the travelers through treacherous terrain or the silent shot of a mule munching away grass while his owners try to figure out their next move. Faces become clues to hidden stories, the ones in real life we hide behind the eyes. While Laxe uses mostly non-professional actors for this piece, not much is taken away from the spiritualism, the allegory of faith and what is just. Rather, it adds a human element that guides the lyrical flow of the film.
It’s hard to say if Laxe is creating a realism or surrealism in this partly devotional piece. But I guess that the desert constraint ties in the harmony between cut up narratives and an unspoken journey for the movie’s characters. There’s something to be said about a filmmaker that doesn’t spoon feed his audience, but rather lets the film gestate in their brains long after they’ve left the theatre.
Oliver Laxe’s Mimosas plays out like a classical western film where there are potential double crossers, semi-saviors, and suspenseful stand offs. Yet this movie also offers so much more.