Faouzi Bensaidi’s “Volubilis” is the story of a woman, the story of a man, and the story of a lost city.
By Afifa Hassainate
Rabat – It was a nice warm winter afternoon in Marrakech when, as part of an international film festival, we decided to watch a movie and searched for one with so-called real deep art.
We had already been through a “colonized” red carpet and tried to discuss our Moroccan culture in the French style as we must stay faithful to art and society.
Someone then proposed the movie “Volubilis.” As I was born a Meknessi, a native of Meknes, the city 30 kilometers south of ancient ruins of Volubilis, I thought to myself, “What can a producer make out of a beautiful yet abandoned city? Can it be an actual real piece of art?”
Faouzi Bensaidi’s “Volubilis” is the story of a woman, the story of a man, and the story of a lost city. But it is a city that is found in the eyes of some artists, writers, and historians. Bensaidi, the movie’s director, gives us a piece of art, images that took our breath away, deep dialogues, and scenes that entice desires while holding back.
The movie highlights a woman, Malika, a working class girl who just got married and who is trying to live and to love within a world of ugliness and poverty. Living in an abandoned city, the characters are also abandoned. Nevertheless, like everyone else her age, Malika wanted to discover, to see what was behind and before her. Her eyes expressed an amazing depth, and they also sank with secret pain.
After all, we all aspire to experience and uncover hidden meanings.
The story went on, and other women came into the picture: Rich, elegant, and refined women who make up high society, drinking champagne while bathing in exquisite pools, a pond where many feminist thoughts were stuck, as Virginia Woolf put it.
There, Malika throws away her “pink” working apron when she feels humiliated by all the others. It was an act of anger, a refusal to be put down and stepped upon. But at the same time, it was like removing her feminine side. If a woman is tired of life, she is simultaneously tired of herself.
“Volubilis” surely recalls images from previous art pieces and the struggle to survive. The moment Abdulkader was violated was reminiscent of the scene of the storm in King Lear. Though he was not a real King, he believed he was as the head of security at La Belle Vie mall.
Ultimately, it is about the battle between good and evil, the idea of the subaltern, the lower, trying to speak and voice his side of the story.