Experimental film-makers continually straddle the divide between art and film. Indeed, on many occasions it proves impossible to find where one starts and the other begins. There’s a certain art in appreciating these films which often requires patience and great concentration. Ben Rivers is one of the most renowned exponents in this field. The likes of Two Years at Sea and A Spell To Ward Off Darkness both received critical praise and asked many more questions than they answered.
His new film, ‘The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Not Afraid and the Two Eyes are Not Brothers, proves to be (relatively) more accessible than his previous features. It’s a loosely based on a short story (A Distant Episode) by Paul Bowles written in 1947. The film opens with film-maker Oliver Laxe directing his own film in Morocco, soon wandering off set for his own adventure before being kidnapped and subjected and tortured into being an ornamental slave.
In The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Not Afraid and the Two Eyes are Not Brothers, Rivers plays with the narrative of colonialism and cultural appropriation. In Laxe’s case the dominator becomes the dominated as he experiences his own personal heart of darkness moment. The relationship between historical powers and their former servants is twisted into an allegory of post-colonial relations in Africa. It’s a thought provoking and intensely troubled films which leaves the interpretation in the hands of the viewer.
In The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Not Afraid and the Two Eyes are Not Brothers is out in cinemas on Friday.