Desert is something between an heterotopia and what I would call an atopia (a non-space). It defines itself as a territory whose limits seem to reach the infinite, which is not to say that it seems to have no limits. In fact, in the cinematographic desert, one always tries to reach the horizon as a tenacious impossible quest.
I think an appropriate author to quote here is Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
(see previous post
) in his beautiful humanist novel Desert:
They appeared as if in a dream at the top of the dune, half-hidden in the cloud of sand rising from their steps. Slowly, they made their way down into the valley, following the almost invisible trail. At the head of the caravan were the men, wrapped in their woolen cloaks, their faces masked by the blue veil. Two or three dromedaries walked with them, followed by the goats and sheep that the young boys prodded onward. The women brought up the rear. They were bulky shapes, lumbering under heavy cloaks, and the skin of their arms and foreheads looked even darker in the indigo cloth.
They walked noiselessly in the sand, slowly, not watching where they were going. The wind blew relentlessly, the desert wind, hot in the daytime, cold at night. The sand swirled about them, between the legs of the camels, lashing the faces of the women, who pulled the blue veils down over their eyes. The young childre ran about, the babies cried, rolled up in the blue cloth on their mothers’ backs. The camels growled, sneezed. No one knew where the caravan was going.
They were the men and the women of the sand, of the wind, of the light, of the night. They had appeared as if in a dream at the top of a dune, as if they were born of the cloudness sky and carried the harshness of space in their limbs. They bore with them hunger, the thrist of bleeding lips, the flintlike silence of the glinting sun, the cold nights, the glow of the Milky Way, the moon: accompanying them were their huge shadows at sunset, the waves of virgin sand over which their splayed feet trod, the inaccessible horizon. More than anything, they bore the light of their gaze shining so brightly in the whites of their eyes.
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio. Desert (1980). Verba Mundi 2009
– Werner Herzog: Fata Morgana 1968
– Gus Van Sant: Gerry 2002
– Chuan Lu: Kekexili (Mountain Patrol) 2006
– Peter Watkins: Punishment Park 1971 (see previous posts)
– Michelangelo Antonioni: Zabriskie Point 1970
– Michelangelo Antonioni: Professione: Reporter (The Passenger) 1975