Arabian Nights


Arabian Nights (1974)



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Movie Info

Pier Paolo Pasolini reshapes The Arabian Nights to conform to his own vision of sexuality. An Arabian Prince, searching for a slave girl with whom he has fallen in love, is told a series of erotic fantasy stories. Each tale strengthens his resolve to consummate his relationship with the girl.

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Critic Reviews for Arabian Nights

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (1)

A typical puzzlement from Pasolini, a major figure who never made a major film.

Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…

while Arabian Nights has its share of impressive vistas and narrative trickery, its fundamental emotional disconnect renders it inert--a beautiful bit of exotic fantasy that quickly dissipates

Jan 4, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Though not emotionally involving, it's visually beautiful and the stories have a dazzling magical appeal.

Aug 10, 2011 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

A lyrical celebration of polymorphous sexuality.

Oct 23, 2007 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

The final film of the Trilogy of Life further develops Pasolini's notions of the relationship of narrative to an idealized medieval world.

Apr 14, 2004 | Full Review…

Mildly erotic, slightly deranged, and beautifully entertaining, this is one of the Italian director's finest works.

May 24, 2003 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Arabian Nights


Truth is not in only one dream but in many dreams. At once treachery in this sun-crashed world. Treachery of a slave who chooses her master. Treachery of a Christian who steals the slave for some Moslem buyer who had been refused by her. Treachery of the desert that forces these people to move around to find water for men and cattle alike. Treachery of love itself that is always at first sight, has little to do with discriminating between boys and girls, women and men. Strangely enough for a long time we believe love is nothing but desire and lust leading to suffering and deception, disappointment. And yet we are to find there is a lot more beyond that simple carnal, though also spiritual, appeal, attraction. There is attachment, an attachment that has to do with fate, a curse, a malediction, happiness. Happiness beyond fate, the curse, the malediction of treachery, vengeance, cruelty. On the track of Zumurud, the stolen slave. And Nordine, her chosen master, is the light of the Lord, the light of that happiness. There is a Song of Song atmosphere here when Nordine does not look after his own vineyard and his Zumurud is stolen again, kidnapped by some other man, a Kurd mind you, after the Christian, and his forty acolytes. The Christian ends up on a cross. The Kurd ends up on a cross. And we are delving into the side-tracks of this main story. There is nothing one can do against the will of God. Then more dramatic stories are going to be told, twisted into and around one another with dramas and more dramas all ordered and commanded by fate no one can evade. The story of the tragic love of Aziz and Aziza destroyed or made impossible by Budur who will end up causing Aziza's death and will castrate Aziz. The story of Aziz and Tadji and the decoration of a pavilion in Queen Dunya's garden, the queen who hates men, and the love that will come out of it. The Stories of the two workers, Shahzaman and Yunan, two dramatic stories of fate that enslaves and victimizes human beings, and their choice to drop everything, sons of Kings that they are, and become mendicants to serve God. A vision of God who is totally absent. Fate is not the decision of God but seems to be some kind of force of its own and the only way to compensate for that necessarily negative fate is to dedicate one's life to God. God is abstract. God has no church, no clergy. God only has these mendicants who suffer for his glory, for his rule. Man is taken between the pagan acceptance of fate and the Godlike attitude that leads to becoming a permanent pilgrim on earth. This power of God is captured in civilizations we understand to be Moslem or Hindu, often at the crossing point between old millennium-long beliefs that edge on superstitions and an abstract notion of God that requires absolute submission. The end of the film hence is completely different because it deals with the second, happy and final meeting between Nordine and Zumulud, between the master and the slave turned king in a love that starts with obedience and ends with passion. In this film Pasolini does not follow a painter, nor a story teller, but a poet, the Arabian poet who speaks of love and the success of love beyond all kinds of difficulties, traps, snares, a love that he embodies in a man and a woman, but that is constantly shown as being ambiguous, limitless, without any boundaries. His vision of the mixing of these two cultures, Semitic Islam and Indo-Aryan Hinduism (note it cannot be Buddhism because of the belief in God) is exhilaratingly fascinating. These Arabian Nights are definitely reflecting that meeting point but here Pasolini makes it a metaphor and a parable of the future of humanity that can only find love, life, a reality in the joining of the various traditions of spirituality that humanity has produced in its divine desire to understand and explain what was a perfect mystery for it, viz. life itself that can only be measured and appreciated when death comes.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

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