Wednesday, 27 April 2016


If there's a single point to be made in Miguel Gomes' Arabian Nights project, it's made most succinctly in Volume 3 - The Enchanted One. The series itself at its most enchanting, and at its most mundane, this simple assemblage of stories on Portuguese identity draws out from these three films the true purpose of Gomes' methods of presenting them; we've already been acquainted with Arabian Nights' overarching nature, but it's only in The Enchanted One that Gomes' means excuse his ends. The first 40 minutes are sweet and pretty, and perhaps mildly allegorical, but they serve more to illuminate the genesis of Gomes' structural scheme than to reveal anything profound about his native Portugal. Nevertheless, as a quirky reworking of an old story, this segment is in fact more closely related to the first two volumes than it is to the remainder of The Enchanted One, which turns the film from poetic fantasy to sober documentary. It's a plaintive, perceptive portion, extended to a length great enough that it attains a magnitude of its own, even within this six-hour project. On-screen text ties it to the opening story, a determined narrative drive once again jutting in, this time not to a tale that needs room to breathe, but to a tale that actually provides it, only to have it denied. Yet this text, with its overt implication on this film's identity as a piece of storytelling, combined with the truest, purest examination of Portuguese identity in all three films, finally develops Gomes' essential idea: it is through stories of the past that we come to understand our present, and shape our future, and through skillful manipulation of their telling that we abate the destruction of our own identity. A pleasant, poignant point then, but did it really have to take six hours to make it?