The Yellow Desert
Primitive, mysterious, mystical: “Mimosas”, the second film by Oliver Laxe, is uplifting
Like a nine-year-old child in front of a canvas by Poussin or Klee, it happens that we sometimes don’t understand a film that we like. But we still like it. It speaks to us through its beauty, like a bewitching song. The language is unfamiliar, but we listen to it anyway. “Mimosas” by Oliver Laxe is never hermetic; it is primitive and mysterious. It recounts the perilous crossing of a high range of arid, ochre mountains by a small caravan of poor people carrying the body of a deceased friend, in the hope of burying him close to his loved ones. We are in the High Atlas, these modest folk are Moroccan, the dead man is a sheikh, the customs are Muslim, the religion is Islam. Therein lies the mystery.
Mystery is a religious notion, and “Mimosas” is a film about religion. It already seems risqué to say it and write it like that, but it’s an altogether more disturbing experience to live through it without a safety net. Because one is never sure of anything in this mineral paradise, where danger threatens and where man leaves no trace. None, nothing at all. They talk in the wind, they invoke God, faith, rituals, and then it all just disappears. They invent a discourse which organizes the unthinkable, that which cannot be organized. Words that hold together the higher and the lower, heaven and earth, life and death; but as soon as the words fall silent, it all comes apart, collapses and disappears. If, in “Mimosas”, you strip out the everything (the absolute power of nature), and if you remove the nothing (those poor wretches who we can barely see against the landscape), what you are left with is a film about spirituality.
A Pasolinian Western
That’s already enough to earn Oliver Laxe a distinction that is both rare and not often sought: Welcome to the madhouse. His filmmaking does not yet have the consistency of Sarunas Bratras, the tenacity of Pedro Costa, or the violent sensuality of Lasandro Alonso’s work, but he has clearly struck out on the same harsh road as this impossible family. Oliver Laxe’s filmmaking also has that ability to spill out of the film itself, to go beyond, to spread. Here, the camera is as much a device for recording the profound mystique of the world – that mysterious chant to which men reply with their faith – as for producing, distilling, and exalting that mystique.
The fact that this young cineaste chose to set his fable in the land of Islam should not be credited with any special bravery. What is discussed here concerning God and man is expressed in the same way elsewhere, in other latitudes and using a different spiritual grammar. Here, religion is not about religious identity; it’s a giddiness that one cannot share, a way of existing in the world and being together that the filmmaker reduces to its essence, its anthropological structure, but which he films like a Pasolinian Western.
Another branch to add to the bouquet of “Mimosas” is the journey across the sands of a caravan of ephemeral taxis, which appear in such a way as to cloak the main narrative in an uneven blanket. It’s enigmatic and sumptuous. There are some mysteries which should remain unspoken.
(Translated from French)