The visionary directors of our time will be remembered for their talent for combining genres. Edgar Wright mixes comedy with action editing and style masterfully; Jordan Peele blends horror, comedy and racial political thriller all in one while never letting one genre detract from the other, they instead feed each other.
Mimosas takes this genre-synthesisation to a new level by beautifully blending the Western with a metaphysical art-house film using the cinematic language of New Iranian Cinema. The story follows a caravan of travellers attempting to cross the Atlas mountains in order to save the ailing Sheikh who is on death’s door. His last wish is to be buried with his loved ones in a town on the other side of the perilous peaks. As the caravan returns to their destination, the protagonist, Ahmed (Ahmed Hammoud), claims leadership in the wake of the Sheikh’s death and swears to bury him in his hometown with the aide of his partner (Said Aagli).
Visually, the film is fueled by stunning 16mm panoramas and breathtaking landscapes that dwarf the characters. The Atlas mountains become characters themselves. In this unchanging scenery, the characters are isolated and forced to ponder their place and their motivation in this world. This aesthetic limbo also cuts the story’s connection to any set period. In the beginning it would seem the events are taking place before the 19th century but then we are introduced to Shakib (Shakib Ben Omar), a misunderstood, naive young man, who sets of in the contemporary world to find the lost travellers. The feature calls into question traditions and their place in the modern world; before Shakib sets of, he emblazons his car with a sticker that reads “Don’t Forget God”.
The acting is laconic and smoldering, borrowing partly from Kiarostami and partly from Huston. Ahmed’s leadership is called into question when he abandons the Sheikh’s body without telling his fellow travellers and this rising conflict explores the ideas of duty, manhood, destiny and faith effortlessly.
Mimosas is split into three sections named after the parts of the Islamic prayer and as the story progresses and Ahmed becomes more despondent, Shakib leans more and more into spiritual guidance. They eventually lock horns in a more metaphysical manner akin to the aimless wandering of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry.
Director Oliver Laxe has accomplished a stunning juggling act: a philosophical North African Western epic that is powered by cinematography that leaves the audience breathless, partly for its beauty but mostly for the harrowing sense of limbo it creates around the characters.
Mimosas is released in selected cinemas on 25th August 2017.
Watch the trailer for Mimosas here: