A curious combination of thematically dense and tonally sparse, some may grasp a deeper meaning from Mimosas. However this otherworldly odyssey across North Africa struggles to rise beyond its style, as the bleak sprawl of the landscape is reflected in the meandering and ill-explained narrative.
But oh boy, is that landscape a sight to see. Shot on 16mm film, Oliver Laxe makes full use of the Atlas Mountains setting as the makeshift caravan treks through sand and snow. Music cues are intermittent, and the journey is framed instead by the crunch of footsteps through their uncertain terrain. Unfortunately their travels are as dull as they are breathtaking. Split into three parts – named for three components of Islamic prayer – the first section is defiantly confusing as we jump from the caravan to a car workshop and back again. Eventually the film explains itself, and part two picks up the pace – before dropping it again.
Character development appears an afterthought to Laxe, who based the film on his own travels with actor Saïd Aagli, and named the film after the bar in which it was written. Withdrawn Ahmed and his amiable compatriot Saïd make for an interesting pair of rogues, with conflicting goals and motivations. However Mimosas is more interested in wannabe prophet and spiritual figurehead Shakib, who unfortunately comes across as more infuriating than enlightening. Similarly, later additions to the caravan are disappointingly sidelined, reenforcing the bewildering nature of this beautiful film.
Encounters with bandits threaten to offer an engaging Hollywood conclusion, but Mimosas isn’t concerned with tying itself up in a bow. Like the mountains the caravan travels through, Mimosas is lofty, grand, and tremendously inaccessible; the film deserves credit for how resolutely it commits to being a challenging watch.
CAST: Abdelatif Hwidar, Ilham Oujri, Hamid Farjad, Ahmed Hammoud
DIRECTOR: Oliver Laxe
WRITER: Oliver Laxe
SYNOPSIS: A dying Sheikh travels across the Moroccan Atlas in a caravan escorted by two rogues. In another world, Shakib is chosen to travel to the mountains with a mission: to help the improvised caravanners.