Gabbeh or a magic carpet in the oriental imagination is the joy of the traveler, the means to navigate in the distance and the unknown. In Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s film (the first of his “Poetic Trilogy”), it is a Gabbeh that an old couple falls by chance, floating on a river, which takes us into lands bordered by cascades of clear waters and a clash of colors. Undulating in variegated hues of blue as diverse as the shades of the sky meeting the horizon, this rug depicted a horseman carrying his daughter across what seemed like an endless plateau.
This enigmatic carpet is embodied in the form of an itinerant maiden (Shaghayeh Dojodat) of the Qashqai tribe, who lists in evocative tones the sequence of events before they actually occur. Here, providence and phenomena intertwine in a cabalistic whirlwind that almost always goes back to the realm of familiarity. There’s a slight drunkenness to its ether that stays mostly still except for the sometimes charged minds of nomads, allowing us to sink into the blissful sleepiness that accompanies a beautiful dream.
Gabbeh’s self-fulfilling clairvoyance is translated verbally into poetic philosophy; her prophecies turn out to be true, but she seems largely a fantasy invention. The close-ups loom over his moving lineaments, as they converse, with the lady holding his shoulders; a simultaneous distant shot is a revelation that she is invisible as the lady rinses the Gabbeh. Curiously, Gabbeh stands in the image of the woman, who wears the same royal azure garment as her, manifesting, perhaps, her own reflection in another time dimension, as they sit against the waters. currents, insinuating the elusiveness of time.
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A horseman beckons him with his howls that echo through the valleys. However, their communion is blocked indefinitely. On the other side of the field, a nomadic school is laid bare where children with red cheeks are educated outside. They run to represent nature in motion, while Gabbeh, calm in her meditation, weaves the thread of fate. Here, the color is twice as bright: bright drapes and rugs that will not fail to scald your eyes, khaki lawns that will attract you. It’s a hunt for love, eye contact with a prism of possibilities, a brown study amid the sumptuous contrasts of their rugged surroundings.
Gabbeh awaits the return of his uncle, who teaches nomadic children to understand nature in its speckled perfection, with the intention of tackling self-realization. He makes mystical gestures invoking the red poppies and yellow wheat as if to grasp them in the palm of his hand, and he does so, for he holds a grain of flora before their eyes. His hands return tinged with hypnotic camouflage as he focuses on capturing the cosmic, aquatic glow. The deep blue, evoking the limitless elements of sea and sky, recalls “minoo” or the poetic Persian word for “sky”, where the blessed disciple looks up during prayer. The revolving realm of Gabbeh is therefore a realm of restorative spontaneity, divine retrospective and spiritual sublimation.
The nomadic tribe of Gabbeh have their roots deep in nature, as evidenced by the ever-evolving tree they call “the symbol of [her] family”. Children of the earth, the wind and the trees, they signify in their cohesion a connectivity that is both universal and personal. Their reunion near the “tree of life” is a reminder of their ancestry and rebirth, of their interdependence and filial piety.
Gabbeh merges and aligns simple realism and folkloric dreaminess in a balance of intuition and knowing, cheerfulness and solemnity. There is a sacred home in community, peace in simplistic living, fulfilling harmony in love, a beginning in an end. It is there that the memory is ripe and that the youth surges through the rocks and the valleys, to rest in the divine closeness and the eternal duration, which the Iranians call the “baqa”. Here, memory is constantly rewritten and renewed by word of mouth, a continuity that will live on through the images knitted into the jute rugs. New threads overlap existing threads, like piling up stories and overlapping memories, people crossing paths.
Makhmalbaf offers a viewing garnished with rich native acoustics that ensures the senses coordinate (as colors interact to give rise to other colors) to fully perceive its overwhelming pantheistic quality. Gabbeh (1996) is an ode to life and its iridescence in the same way The silence (1998) is a prayer for harmony. Strongly inundated with Sufism, they stroll in the sunlight symphonically to the rhythm of the human heart.
Subtlety and clarity strangely coincide; and tickle the conscience with glimpses of lyrical divinity. Dhowqor the immediate “taste” of experience, which is at the heart of Sufi philosophy, becomes the ultimate actuality.