Another Sky (1954)

 The past is only a dream that brought me here.”

The mesmerizing, haunting film Another Sky is the tale of an English governess, Rose Graham (Victoria Grayson) who travels to Morocco to take a post as a companion. Rose’s employer Selena Prouse (Catherine Lacey) is a well-to-do middle-aged woman who uses Rose’s presence as a sort of smoke screen for her dalliance with her much younger gigolo.

Rose, who is left to her own devices a great deal, explores the city with a seasoned guide, Ahmed (Ahmed Ben Mohammed). While dining at a local restaurant, Rose meets and falls in love with a musician Tayeb (Taieb).

This tragic tale of love and imperialism is set against the jarring clash of two wildly different, and vastly inequitable, cultures. The streets teem with children and adults begging for money, and the market place attracts sideshows whose members hope tourists will leave a little change. The Europeans in Marrakech imagine that the Moroccans are just vessels for their comfort and amusement. Selena Prouse, for example, sees her houseboy (a child) as grateful for a narrow mattress in a corner of her home, and she doesn’t contemplate the morality of their situations beyond the fact that he’d probably starve without her (“When you’ve been here a while, you’ll realise it’s all they expect.”). Selena doesn’t believe in ‘spoiling’ the locals either, and she frowns on Rose when she hands out a 100-franc note to a street beggar. The local children approach Rose with the same ritual every day. First they get her attention, and then she shakes hands with them as if she’s making their acquaintance right before she opens up her bag and hands out money.

The wealthy Europeans in Marrakech are portrayed as a decadent bunch who party in a local palace now converted to a restaurant for those who can afford it. Rose, who grasps that money is at the root of all the relationships between the Moroccans and the Europeans, fails to see that money also taints her relationship with Tayeb. She sees money “as a common language” the two cultures share. Rose’s attempts to communicate with Tayeb accentuate the unbreachable & unfathomable mysteries of another culture. Symbolically (and unknowingly), Rose abandons her own culture to pursue her love, and as she strays from her fellow Europeans, her vulnerability increases until, finally, she is as desperate as the native population. When stripped of everything, and finally equal with the locals, they come to her aid. This highly unusual hypnotic film, with minimal dialogue, is written and directed by novelist Gavin Lambert. This was his only film. An amazing film for its time.

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