Italian poet Tonino Guerra was screen writer/collaborator with Fellini, Tarkovsky, and Khemir—Guerra came to know depth of Sufi mysticism, the loving, tolerant, even poetic sect of true Islam, through Khemir—embraced by all of Europe in recent times this desert trilogy is in now available at Nexflix—any discussion of a Sufi Islam with which we have a lot in common would be welcomed— illumination of any aspect of this 4 part topic would benefit us all. Thanks, Bobby.
And L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, The Red Desert, Blowup, Zabriskie Point and Identification of a Woman.
What did he write for Fellini and Tarkovsky?
Nostalghia for Tarkovsky
Amacord for Fellini.
He also wrote for Theopoulos, DeSica, Monicelli, and the Taviani brothers—he co-directed Voyage in Time with Tarkovsky—Imagine what Guerra knows!
Khemir’s Bab Aziz is cited in the above wikipedia article as a Sufi-influenced film, with quotes from the great poet Rumi, and it’s superb, as is Khemir’s Wanderers of the Desert (not scripted by Guerra). We have Blue K to thank for his superb choices for Africa in the last world cup.
Guerra is one of the great screenwriters for sure, a fascinating collection of directors he’s worked with, yet for some reason he doesn’t get much attention.
Some of the best films Guerra has been involved with- and such an impressive filmography on his home page!- have a spiritual or metaphysical edge. It comes as a surprise to see he was also one of the writers for Rosi’s version of Carmen which i liked, with Julia Migenes-Johnson suited to the part. But i think of him not only for Antonioni and Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia but with Angelopoulos- great road movies like Eternity and a Day , and The Bee-Keeper which i saw yesterday, and with Mastroianni in that film i wonder if he, Guerra, was a bridge to Italy (Mastroianni had also appeared in the Guerra-scripted Henry IV round that time). Maybe little wonder in the discussion yesterday on The Bee-Keeper it was said to be Angelopoulos’ most Antonioni-esque film. And Night Sun is an underrated Taviani film about a hermit, some link to the quest for inner purity and simplicity in sufism maybe
Guerra the poet:
from The Hut
Inside the hut, there were windows, tiny windows, cracks,
blinds, holes and doors (there were more than fifty of them)
and for more than a week Omero
began to look at what was outside to see:
First, the trees that the peasants
had planted around the house — the mulberry they had
planted near the well so that when the women
pulled out the water they wouldn’t get sunstroke,
the walnut-tree that kept flies away,
the rattan for making baskets
and hampers, which the old people made during vigils,
the tamarisk to make brooms
that were used to sweep the stalls and the threshing floor,
the elder-tree to use against tapeworms,
and the reed-thicket that supplied new canes
for the vineyard. All this was still there
but the only thing left of the haystacks
were posts driven into the ground
with loose cross-bars
that could no longer hold in fodder
On foggy days, you could see only
the tips of the posts and the rest was under a cloud
raining on the ground, four
black points that looked like drowned
boats, and farther away, you could see, floating above the clouds,
the bell tower of San Giovanni in Galilea
with the walls of its cemetery
that kept all the iron crosses closed in, up there in the air.
And you could see the edge
of the castle where they say
Francesca of Rimini arrived, visiting relatives,
on a horse with a silver harness
and behind her was her husband’s brother,
who was beating all the yellow spring flowers with a cane.
Sometimes the fog erased everything
and the windows were shut against
kilometers and kilometers of damp dust
that kept you from being able to see the shadows that
the reeds made and the red colored leaves of the peach-trees
that were falling to the ground.
But you could hear shots up above,
a truck that was going like hell,
and two warplanes
that were flying in the sunlight above the clouds
chasing after each other like madmen.
When they dove headfirst
it seemed like the sky was falling on the hut
and Omero covered his ears with his hands
because the windows and the ground were shaking:
If there is a war, one bomb is enough
to destroy everything between the sea and the mountains
and men will be shadows on the walls.
Early one morning, however,
the countryside was white with frost
as if it had rained milk.
Then the sun came out
and the colors of the earth returned,
although that warm light didn’t dry everything,
and Omero, who watched spellbound, looked at a
world turned upside down,
where there were houses and trees with white shadows
dotting the entire plain.
There were also windy days
with tattered cloth and paper being batted around
and pieces of tin cracking,
and stones inside cans rattling
in order to scare marmots.
Suddenly the wind
fell to the earth
and was lying among the grass
and fragments of cabbage leaves.
Omero couldn’t sleep because of the silence;
he felt like he was falling down into a well
that had no water and no bottom: then he started to yell
to get rid of the cotton ball that was blocking his ears
and it left him alone in the hollowed-out bed.
All at once, the air started to move
beating against the little windows.
The glass of the windows shook,
the cracks whistled and the holes in the wood,
and the whole hut,
began to creak as if it were
a ship going around the world.
whoa thanks kenji for the poem.
khemir’s bab aziz is surely influenced by sufi mysticism and theres a lot sufi metaphorical in the film, i like khemir’s intention but i dont think it works on the emotional or soul level, like lets say sayat nova, which for me has the same spiritual and trascendental effect with reading rumi’s poetry. And one film that really has the spirit of sufi for me is Michael pilz’s heaven and earth. Michael pilz himself is also a fan of Jalaluddin Rumi, it shown in the film’s voiceover, also the images is really shown the spirit and attitude of sufi. The film itself never mentioned Islam, its even opened by the beautiful words of lao tzu, but it doesnt matter, because sufi is, like streetcar desire said, loving and tolerant. in fact some famous sufi like Ibn Arabi and Rumi believes while every religion may differ on the exoteric level (a world of forms), it could transcend on the esoteric level (the formless essence)
quoting Rumi from Masnavi :
“The outward form of things passes away, but the essence remains for ever. How long will you be besotted with the shape of the jug? Cast aside the jug, and seek the water. If you look too closely at the form, you miss the essence. If you are wise, you will always pick out the pearl from the shell.”