16 January 2008

Born of Fire

Born of Fire
United Kingdom - 1983
Director – Jamil Dehlavi
Vidmark Entertainment, 1987, VHS

Some lady is looking into a giant observatory telescope, apparently at the sun, hears some weird music that compells her to attend a flute recital. In the drawing room, the mere sight of her induces nausea in Paul, the flute soloist.
I’ve become wary of films involving flutes, and this sounds like it’s gonna be weird.
Driving back to his dieing mothers house with this strange unexplained woman, they arrive just in time for a few final raspy words before she gives up the ghost. Taking a bath after the funeral, the woman reveals to Paul the nature of his fathers mysterious death in Turkey many years ago. Paul decides to go to Turkey and confront his fathers archrival-flautist, the Master Musician, a netherworldly Islamic djinn which breathes fire, and can shoot fire out of it’s eyes.

In Turkey Paul meets an Islamic vision guide to walk him through the rest of this bizarre supernatural flautist movie. The woman suddenly shows up in Turkey, which doesn’t seem to phase Paul. Shacking up with him in his carved rock temple she tames his half savage, mute and deformed half-brother, then becomes possessed by the Master Musician and rapes Paul. Meanwhile, like a Gollum with his skin-flute flopping around on screen, the Music Master stalks around his fiery cave playing flute melodies to taunt Paul. Later the woman wades into a giant mineral hot springs and disgorges a massive deluge of menstrual blood filled with large amphibian eggs. Returning later she retrieves a giant moth cocoon that she buries in the Master Musicians cave. When the moth emerges, she dies in agony in the arms of the savage who suddenly learns to scream.

Now Paul and his raving fanatical brother perform an incredible flute and baritone duet which makes the hotsprings overflow into the Music Masters cave, drowning him and his flutes.
I thought this was going to be a little bit like Exorcist 2 for a few minutes, while it has some similarities it got better, and it’s certainly one of the only movies I’ve seen to use Islamic theology in such a positive and interesting way. Unfortunately all the bizarrity is delivered with such deadpan sincerity and so little explanation that nothing seems out of the ordinary, even the actors seem to take it all in stride. It’s really only in retrospect that I’d realized what I had witnessed, and by that time it was too late, I didn’t want to watch any more flutes of either kind.

Searching for images online I came across a series of web pages, including a Born of Fire page maintained by Nabil Shaban, the actor who played the savage half-brother, check 'em out, they're pretty interesting.

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