Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Whether it is in the art of constructing such rich, pointed scenarios, or in the art of recognising them in their natural state, there is undoubtedly true mastery at hand in Timbuktu. In naturally-lit compositions (electric or gas-powered lighting is sparingly used) of calm detachment and simple dignity, Abderrahmane Sissako devises a scene of silliness, a farce stripped to its barest in the pursuit of honesty, and thus a representation of the very opposite: reality revealing itself as folly. Sissako makes it easy to understand his situation, since it is so easily understood in its fundamental truths - power reconfigured as passion is fragile, and its fragmentation isolates its principles from its practices. In Timbuktu, order is applied through arbitrary enforcement of unjust rules and disproportionate punishment, one heavy layer of ignorance obfuscating the ideals to which these jihadists adhere so supposedly rigorously. Their very existence is nonsensical here, even more so as they attempt to revert society to a primitive state; this society that is depicted already as existing in a most elemental of states. Here, respect is earned, and itself respected; the filmmaking aspires to earn our respect too, both the nature of its conceit and in its treatment, visually, narratively, totally. Sissako's expressive restraint makes Timbuktu less a film that you feel, more an appropriately dispassionate facsimile of an impassioned mentality, that we might know more clearly his intents. No matter that it is a film that may not reside as vividly in one's memory as one feels it ought to - there is such mastery at hand in Timbuktu, and it's that mastery that will make this so powerful a film to revisit, as those memories wane.