Arabian Nights – Volume 1, The Restless One

As Mil e Uma Noites – Volume 1, O Inquieto

Miguel Gomes’s uniquely imaginative response to Portugal’s economic crisis: an encyclopedic, shape-shifting, hugely entertaining triptych that merges true-life experience with the ancient tales of Scheherezade.

Arabian Nights – Volume 1, The Restless One

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Director Miguel Gomes
Producers Luís Urbano, Sandro Aguilar
Screenwriters Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo, Telmo Churro
With Crista Alfaiate, Adriano Luz, Américo Silva
Portugal-France-Germany-Switzerland 2015
125 mins
UK distribution New Wave Films/MUBI

>Portuguese director Miguel Gomes (Tabu) sets out to adapt the Arabian Nights, but is racked by anxiety about undertaking such a venture in today’s economic crisis. His solution is to create something that confronts Scheherezade’s stories with real-life tales gleaned from the experiences of Portuguese people grappling with hard times. The result is a unique hybrid that takes in housing projects and palaces, punk rockers and princesses, baliffs and caliphs – an encyclopedic sprawl of a film that mixes fantasy, documentary, docu-fiction, Brechtian pantomime and echoes of MGM musical. Non-professionals – sometimes playing characters, sometimes being themselves – mingle with genies, wizards, camels, dogs and IMF economists, all to a deliriously eclectic soundtrack. Whether watched as three stand-alone films, or as one vast, ever-mutating triptych, Arabian Nights is a uniquely radical artistic response to political realities – and a hugely entertaining celebration of the power of cinema and storytelling.

Jonathan Romney