The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers
Part of the Experimenta arm of the festival this year is Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers. Inspired by Paul Bowles’ 1948 short story A Distant Episode, it is a film that begins as experimental documentary and ends a compelling tale of slavery.
The production opens as a faux fly-on-the-wall documentary, capturing the process of filmmaking against the backdrop of the stunning natural scenery of Morocco. Interesting yet unexplained, and therefore perplexing, the first half consists of subtle references to the wide-reaching influence of Western cinematic culture, reinforced by the director’s decision to shoot entirely in 16mm cinemascope, harking back to the golden age of Hollywood. However, things take a turn for the dramatic when the multilingual director of the film is kidnapped and enslaved. Forced to wear an outfit decorated with tin lids and dance for his captors, things look bleak for the director: deprived of hope and unable to speak, having had his tongue cut out, it is unclear whether he will ever be able to escape his cruel fate.
For everything that Rivers attempts to do with the film, the opening begins to fall flat far too long before the action of the second half gets going. While shots of diverse Moroccan landscapes are beautiful, and shooting the process of making a film generates interest in a philosophical sense, it veers close to dull as the effect ploughs on unchanged. As the film begins to pick up steam with more compelling “action”, it becomes a lot more captivating; the shocking events that unfold make for a very welcome change of pace.
A layered movie in every sense, Rivers brings Bowles’ esteemed story of the kidnapped European into the modern day, though he remains quiet on the symbolism of such a story taking place in post-colonial Africa. Perplexing but beautiful, The Sky Trembles certainly feels like it’s doing something new.
The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers here: