It is Noah’s Ark, of course, that the Algerian Mohamed Chouick takes us on, but the waves are made of sand and the ark is the vessel of a mad man. The Desert Ark is a splendid and terrifying metaphor for a burning contemporary reality, which also goes beyond the situation in Algeria to evoke all the tragedies that befall the poor countries of the world. Sadly, this is not Noah’s Ark: the people in this oasis in the middle of the desert will not be graced with the mercy of the myths of the past. Like so many African filmmakers, it is from the culture of the word and popular poetry that Mohamed Chouick, who wrote the script and dialogues, draws his inspiration for this modern fable which is without place or time: « a tale which does not begin with ‘once upon a time’, but with ‘there is’. »
Who could still decry the old-fashionedness of tales after having seen this powerful and poignant film? Before the silent gaze of the women and children, the men tear one another apart over the innocent love-making of a young couple from different clans. This film traces not only the spiral of violence, but also asks the question: is this violence not in man, ready to spring forth? Does it not especially manifest itself when man is poor?
A woman tells the story of the trick the devil played on Noah: catching hold of the tail of a mule, he forced Noah to say, « come in, then, Satan ». The devil thus entered the ark, and was saved from the flood so that he could continue to inhabit humans… As the ark gets stuck in the sands of religious and moral references, the devil disembarks and continues his deathly work in each and everyone of us. « Look at how vast the earth is », Amin says to Myriam, looking out at the desert. « It is only the hearts of men that are narrow. »
The Desert Ark offers the same quality of cinematography and acting as Mohamed Chouick’s stunning film La Citadelle (1988), and Youcef ou la légende du septième dormant (1993). He uses both the streets of the city and the desert dunes marvelously to inscribe the moving bodies in their environment, giving the film a truly ecological dimension. Men are condemned to live together, and it is up to them to find the way how. The tragedy never becomes pathos. And yet, we are gripped by the emotion: it is impossible to forget the shocked child who leaves, but still incarnates hope, who sets out to cross the desert for a country where houses are not burnt and children not killed.
///Article N° : 5294