Original title: C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle
Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Starring: James Wilby, Dany Verissimo, Arielle Dombasle
Set in Marrakech, a beautiful and exotic location, Gradiva is a film that moves languidly in a semi-surreal dreamlike atmosphere. This is european arthouse, with stunning artfully composed visuals, and a score composed from arabic and operatic sources.
Intellectually, it does not bow to mass-market appeal and subsequently is rather unknown. It's high-brow, conceptual, surreal and artistic mixed with rampant nudity and perversion - and will appeal to a very limited number of people.
The word Gradiva is latin for "the one who walks" and refers to a Roman bas-relief from Pompeii of a woman who lifts the hem of her skirts to walk. The film is loosely based on a novel of the same name by Wilhelm Jensen about a man who becomes fascinated with the woman and dreams he is transported back in time to meet her. It should also be noted that Sigmund Freud famously analysed the lead character of the book in a work titled "Delusion and Dream in W. Jensen's 'Gradiva'".
It therefore comes as no surprise that the movie itself centers around dreams and delusions, and is inexplicable at times. It may well be the kind of movie that reveals deeper nuances on repeat viewings ... but it moves slowly and requires patience.
The story revolves around John Locke, an art historian specialising in the works of Eugene Delacroix who is living in Morocco to further his studies, and sharing his bed with his servant Belkis (former porn-star Dany Verissimo aka Ally Mactyana).
Soon he starts having visions of a waif-like blonde woman and is drawn into the company of a group of degenerates who are rather fond of whippings, bondage, and sexual slavery... and who put on shows in their freemason-like 'Club of the Golden Triangle'.
Drawn deeper and deeper into their influence, soon he has trouble distinguishing between dreams and reality, until all is revealed to him by Leila the 'dream actress'.
SummaryThis is a fantastic surreal movie, beautifully made and with some very interesting ideas. However it is slow and ponderous and will be mainly of interest to arthouse fans.