Original review featured on the Doha Film Institute website.
Director: Nacer Khemir
Stars: Navin Chowdhry, Walid Arakji and Ninar Esber
Genre: Fairy tale, Adventure
In “The Dove’s Lost Necklace” lies Tunisian director, poet and storyteller Nacer Khemir’s passion for fairytales. Filled with visual poetry, the film is his second feature after “Wanderers of the Desert”.
Set in Al Andalus, or Andalusia, the story is an adventure of two young men. Hassan (Navin Chowdhry) the calligrapher is on a quest to find a lost manuscript that will lead him to his one true love. Zin (Walid Arakji), a messenger of love and the son of a Djinn, accompanies him, delivering letters and gifts to those who can’t meet.
The film is based on ‘The Dove’s Ring’ by Ibn Hazm (994-1064), “a treatise on the art and practice of Arab love” as the book’s preface describes. Through stories and poetry, Hazm analyses the psychology of love from the signs of affection, to what he calls ‘The Vileness Of Sinning’ and ‘The Virtue Of Continence’. In his method, we are reminded of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) famous ‘Works of Love’. Both are similar in their analyses that the guilt of faith suffocates passion’s flames. Both also offer a pragmatic understanding to the concept of love, and solutions to optimise these uncontrollable feelings by elevating them for a greater purpose.
In his interpretation, Nacer Khemir creates the princess of Samarkand who has travelled the long distance to Granada in search of her one true love. Her tale reaches a book’s pages and one leaf accidently slips into Hassan’s hands. This page becomes his obsession and he leaves everything looking for his princess – looking for the meaning of love. It’s what this film is all about.
The film sums up Ibn Hazm’s notions on screen. The film goes further in describing Al Andalus’ glory, the passion for books at the time, religious tolerance and the richness of the Arabic language (which has “60 words to describe love”, we learn from a scholar in the picture). Nacer Khemir revives Hazm’s ideas using Djinns and mysterious moments, while making them look natural and real.
“The Dove’s Lost Necklace” received international recognition including a Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival.