Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Mauro Herce's cinematography is stunning and merges perfectly with the soundscape created by Emilio García Rivas."

Before Mimosas begins, one of its protagonists is already dead.

The Sheikh has died of unknown causes - at least, they are not mentioned here. His wife has hired a group of nomads to carry him back to his city - the ancient, now ruined Sijilmasa, once famous for its gold. Saying that she is following his instructions, she insists that they travel through the mountains. The nomads don't like it, arguing that it's the wrong season and there's no safe route through, but eventually agree. "This is not a way for horses. This is a goat's way," one of them complains as they climb. In Middle Eastern tradition, the goat is a lawless animal, and soon order will begin to break down, affecting the group, their mission, and eventually the structure of the film itself.

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Mimosa comes from the Greek word for actor or, since the plural may hint at plural meanings, perhaps Mimosa tenuiflora, a mountain-growing psychedelic herb used in Shamanic rituals. The nature of this film sometimes verges on the hallucinatory. The ritual activities of holy man Shakib (whom the others call Pot Face) become increasingly compelling, along with the rhythmic drumming that increasingly intrudes into an initially more melodic soundtrack. The line between acting and simple observed behaviour is an uncertain one. Are the nomads performing for the Sheikh's wife or for director Oliver Laxe? Some viewers will note the overlap with Ben Rivers' mythic odyssey The Sky Trembles And The Earth Is Afraid And The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, in which Laxe himself leaves the set of Mimosas and wanders away to be captured by a different, less indulgent group of nomads. Some footage is shared between the two films, with different interpretations offered. Are the invisible Laxe and the Sheikh whose face we never see essentially the same person? For the nomads, does it make any difference which rich outsider is telling them what to do?

If Rivers' work recalled Jodorowsky, Mimosas takes us further into the territory of the outsider western. Beyond the mountains lies the Moroccan desert, vast and empty. The people we have been so close to in cramped spaces among the rocks are suddenly remote and tiny. From the high ground they are regarded by bandits. What are we, then? What do we seek to take from them? Meanwhile the quest to carry out the Sheikh's will becomes obsessive, but not everyone shares that obsession. Ahmed (Ahmed Hammoud) says this is crazy, wants to bury him where they are and turn back. Shakib (Shakib Ben Omar), endeavouring to persuade him to stay, comes to resemble Klaus Kinski's character in Aguirre: The Wrath Of God - he has glimpsed something beyond the mundane world and will not let it go, no matter how many people are destroyed along the way.

The unorthodox structure and shifting focus of Mimosas mean it's really not a film for everyone. It's also very slow in places, but never too slow, in part because viewers will find themselves craving more time to feast their eyes on its beautiful landscapes. Mauro Herce's cinematography is stunning and merges perfectly with the soundscape created by Emilio García Rivas. There is a strange enchantment woven here. If the film speaks to you at all, you can expect to fall under its spell.

Reviewed on: 21 Feb 2017
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Faust meets Arabic myth in the Moroccan desert.
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Director: Oliver Laxe

Writer: Oliver Laxe, Santiago Fillol

Starring: Abdelatif Hwidar, Ilham Oujri, Shakib Ben Omar, Ahmed Hammoud, Hamid Farjad, Said Agli, Margarita Albores, Laaziza Ikram, Moe Mohamed Oummad, Ahmed El Othmani

Year: 2016

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: France, Spain, Morocco

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