The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes are Not Brothers is the new film from experimental British director Ben Rivers. He collaborated with Ben Russell to make the stunning A Spell to Ward off the Darkness, shown at VIFF 2013.
I expected to have my mind blown and I was not disappointed. The Sky Trembles... begins as a gorgeous documentation of an actual film being shot in the forbidding Atlas mountains of Morocco with Spanish director Oliver Laxe at the helm. Horse and donkey trains pass through oases and steep scree, shooting what looks like a historical epic. So we are in a film within a film and an unconventional "making of" scenario. It is hard to tell who is an actor or when they are in character. It is unclear which locations are sets and what is just regular village life. The lines between fantasy, art and reality have already been blurred but that is nothing compared with what is to come.
Riffing on a Paul Bowles story, the fablistic and fantastical elements deepen as Laxe is kidnapped, dressed in a suit of tin cans and sold as a dancer. Any attempts to explain more would be unwise. Suffice to say that Rivers keeps the audience guessing and delivers the unexpected. And while I didn't always know why he makes the artistic decisions he makes, the result is captivating and absolutely overflowing with possible meanings and interpretations.
When there is music it is fantastic, especially buzzing, droney sections in which the frequencies are both beautiful and disturbing, like a swarm of insects or a deadly wave. In one long scene, Laxe drives from a village to a desert hotel with a low fever of sound enveloping him. It is an immersive world, sometimes grotesque, always disorienting.
Watch the trailer here. It gives a fairly good impression of what's in store.
Showing on September 26 at 4:30 pm at the Vancity Theatre.