Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Born of Fire
    • Jean Ainslie,
    • Morris Perry,
    • Nabil Shaban 

      In London, a musician finds himself assailed by visions of fire and destruction and is unable to finish an important concert. Later, he is contacted by a mysterious woman who tells him his visions are connected with unusual solar activity and volcanic eruptions in a remote part of Turkey. He visits the area and finds himself at the centre of a battle between good and evil for the fate of the earth. Sometimes described as "the world's first Islamic horror film". Born of Fire is a visually stunning trip through a world of mysticism and magic, in the style of Jodorowsky's El Topo and Magic Mountain.

    93% liked it

    Unrated, 1 hr. 24 min.

    Director: Jamil Dehlavi

    February 28, 2010: Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)

    A buck naked Shaytan creeps about a cave playing a flame-throwing flute. Whirling dervishes pummel a woman to death with flower petals. The menstrual blood of a Djinn possessed woman streams down a cliff side into a pool where it forms a cocoon containing a giant insect whose emergence causes the woman excruciating birth pangs while a malformed dwarf sits nearby screaming in anguish. If David Lynch were a Muslim, Born Of Fire is the kind of film he would make.

    Born Of Fire is visually stunning and (at least for the artsy tolerant) fairly enjoyable, but I’d be a filthy liar if I claimed to understand all the Islamic imagery. This movie cries out for DVD extras and, fortunately, there are some good ones to be had on the recent release. The stand-out piece is an interview with actor Nabil Shaban who plays the aforementioned shrieking little person. He not only gives a feasible interpretation of the plot, but he’s enjoyably blunt in his opinions that his intentionally disturbing character is in fact the real hero of the movie (true) AND looks better lying next to the heroine than does the lead actor (arguable).

    Still, I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about not catching all the Muslim tidbits in Born Of Fire when my own religion often sends me scrambling for a commentary. For instance there’s this week’s first reading in which Abraham participates in a ritual in which animals are cut in half and the pieces laid out. The reading ends with a cryptic image in which “there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces.” You know, if David Lynch were a Christian…

    Anyway, this is why the Catechism reminds us that in Scripture, “truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.” In other words, some research is expected if we’re to understand what’s going on. Here it turns out that God and Abraham were enacting a specific type of Suzerain Treaty, a covenant in which a powerful king promised protection and blessing to a lesser king in exchange for vows of obedience and loyalty. Both parties typically walked through the blood pooling between the pieces of the slaughtered animal proclaiming, “May I be as these if I fail to uphold my side of the covenant!” Since God wasn’t going to physically participate in the ritual, He did so symbolically in Abraham’s vision. A number of Jewish commentaries see the smoking fire-pot and flaming torch as analogous to God’s presence in the pillar of fire and smoke that would later lead the Israelites through the desert. We Christians find the same symbolic presence in the dazzling light and cloud which appear during the Transfiguration. Though not always obvious, God’s always there. Sometimes it’s up to us to learn how to see him.


    LarryD said...

    I've heard of Nabil Shaban. He played an alien in a Dr Who episode when Colin Baker played the Doctor. That was back in the mid-late 80's.

    Sooner or later, one way or another, there's a Dr Who connection.

    EegahInc said...

    Born Of Fire was a UK production, so I'm not surprised.

    The Star Trek thing was hilarious by the way, I'll have a link up to it soon.

    Anonymous said...

    “there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch"

    In our RCIA class, the passage was translated "a smoking brazier" and people were tittering. (no pun intended)

    EegahInc said...

    Put a bunch of people in a room together and you're bound to get one or two who act like boobs.

    Yeah I went there.

    LarryD said...

    I wonder how the students reacted when they came to the scripture passage where it reads that a man leaves his father and mother and cleavages to his wife...

    PaperSmyth said...

    Suzerain Covenant imagery! OMGoodneZ. Thank you. Finally knowing how to spell the word "Suzerain" is awesome!

    I so wish I could force people to learn what the heck a brazier is.

    And, again with Flixter's bad punctuation. But I digress.

    "Though not always obvious, God’s always there. Sometimes it’s up to us to learn how to see him."


    EegahInc said...

    Spelling it is one thing, pronouncing it is another. Being from Georgia I can't help but go with "SusieRain".

    Anonymous said...

    I should point out that I was one of the people tittering. Well, tittering at the tittering. And I even knew what a brazier was. Oh well, they're good people.

    Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

    Was that from St. Paul's Letter to the Filipinos?

    PaperSmyth said...

    "Spelling it is one thing, pronouncing it is another. Being from Georgia I can't help but go with "SusieRain"."

    Unfortunately, I know the person I discussed this with (verbally) pronounced it improperly. She added at least one more syllable. Which is why this is so awesome for me. Now I can read more!!!!

    Fr. Erik, as long as I don't have to go to any more funerals where the "Book of Eeklesses..."