Arabian Nights: Volume 3 -The Enchanted One (15)

Simon Ramshaw completes Arabian Nights and tells us all about the third, and final, volume.

16th May 2016

In the words of Frodo Baggins, “It’s gone. It’s done.” I have finished Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights. I hoped not to be opening with a quote of such blessed relief that this trilogy has come to a close, but Gomes seems to do everything to prompt that, with his final instalment, The Enchanted One.

There is little of the passionate polemic spirit left in the two dying hours of this Portuguese epic, as in the absence of anything else to say, Gomes opts for bizarre obscurity by detailing to us the underground practice of chaffinch trapping, chaffinch song-recording and just general facts about chaffinches. In fact, I’m not even sure if ‘obscurity’ is the right word, since it relates to absolutely nothing that has come before it or after it. In essence, it’s just trolling us.

"Gomes opts for bizarre obscurity by detailing [...] general facts about chaffinches"

I can respect a filmmaker for doing something completely unexpected with the form of their work, but when it actively defies what cinema is all about, it’s rather undefendable. Gomes spatters his film with on-screen text, adding layers and layers of backstory to narratives that otherwise tell us very little. By definition, cinema is a visual medium, not a literary one, but Gomes mashes the two together, completely undermining the trilogy’s power in a poor attempt at creating an audience endurance test.

I endured it, and I can tell you that after sleeping on it, I have not found a justification for the absurd 80 minute-long tangent. And yet, I’m still not rating this, since this instalment is not representative of the other two parts of the trilogy, however inconsistent they may have been too. That being said, I will revisit this in a decade or so, to see if it makes more sense outside of Gomes’ own brain.

For the meantime, it’s a joke without a punchline, which is precisely its punchline. Budumptisk…*cricket, cricket, whistle, trill, etc.*

Rating: No rating

More like this: Nymphomaniac: Volume II (2013)

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