|Michael A. Maynez|
"Passion In The Dessert"
My admiration for Lavinia Currier, the director of Honore de Balzac, French author of the 19th century novella of Egypt in 1798, where "Passion in the Dessert”, takes place, is to be given high marks for undertaking the project. She really had to have passion to produce, direct and help script this film. Many problems had to be resolved, before a camera could turn. One major problem was that Honore was noted for his Parisian, people of the boulevards. This was his one offbeat novella. Finding its two main leads was a problem in itself.
Ben Daniels, as the French Officer who loses his way in the dessert, is on British actor with minimum dialogue and how he bonds with his co-star a leopard. Is the magic of this movie. The powers that be tried to convince Currier that she should use a tiger or a panther, saying that leopards were more unpredictable. We can all be grateful that her integrity prevailed. The bonding of the beast and man are so indelible in the fantastic cinematography of Alexei Rodionov, remember his “Orlando” shoot. Rick Glassey, credited for his handling of the leopards, raised them from birth, so their exposure to human beings help. Still Ben Daniels is to be highly commended for taking such chances, with real close-ups with the leopard, who might just have called “lunchtime” at any moment. The poetry and fluidity of this flick is indeed, what most directors would like to achieve in their lifetime, but seldom have the guts to take such risks.
Petra, Jordan was the location for the unbelievable stone ruins where most of the film was shot. The leopard and the man soon become one, in a relationship full of silence, but always eminent danger. It is not a movie that you will soon forget, the dessert sunrises and sunsets are beauteous, but you do feel the heat from it all.
Passion in the Dessert