Passion in the Desert
Passion in the Desert, or Simoom: A Passion in the Desert, is a 1997 film from director Lavinia Currier based on the short story "A Passion in the Desert" by Honoré de Balzac. The film follows the ventures of a young French officer named Augustin Robert (Ben Daniels) in late 18th-century Egypt during Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign to capture the country.
|Passion in the Desert|
Passion in the Desert theatrical poster
|Directed by||Lavinia Currier|
Lavinia Currier (screenplay)|
Honoré de Balzac (story)
Martin Edmunds (additional script)
|Music by||Jose Nieto|
|Edited by||Nicolas Gaster|
Fine Line Features|
Warner Home Vídeo (VHS/Brazil)
August 31, 1997|
(Telluride Film Festival)
June 12, 1998
|Box office||Domestic: $249,682|
In 1798, Napoleon I has launched an invasion of Egypt. A frail and elderly artist, Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis (Michel Piccoli), has been commissioned by Napoleon to sketch the landscape and monuments of Egypt. French soldier Augustin Robert (Ben Daniels) has been assigned to keep Venture from being harassed by the other soldiers, but the unrelenting burden of this task soon takes its toll on Augustin. Mameluks attack the regiment's small encampment. In the aftermath, Augustin and Venture are now separated from their regiment. Walking in the arid landscape, under the blaze of the desert sun, they begin to suffer an unquenchable thirst, and Augustin is infuriated when the artist uses the last of their water to mix his paints.
Augustin abandons Venture, who cannot keep up, but promises to return with aid. Venture, unable to believe that Augustin will return, commits suicide. Augustin wanders aimlessly on his own. His thirst compels him to steal water from native Bedouins, frightening a young woman who startles him in her tent. Several Bedouin men give chase in response, and he flees to some nearby caves where he is trapped until a leopard, appearing out of nowhere, slays a Bedouin who is about to kill him.
Augustin is terrified at first, then astonished when the leopard gives him food and leads him to water. Augustin and the leopard, whom he names "Simoom," develop a strange and mysterious relationship, and he begins to mirror her behavior, living in the ruins of a lost city near the caves. Stripping naked, he paints his body with dirt and sand, seeking to resemble her golden-brown fur and its rosette-shaped markings. For a while, they are suspicious and competitive toward each other, but a bond has nevertheless been formed. Augustin finds himself jealous when Simoom goes to mate with another leopard, but she later returns to him.
The bond between Augustin and Simoom is then tested. He saves her from a group of lost French soldiers, who have wandered by and are aiming to kill her for food. Augustin, however, ultimately decides to return to his regiment rather than be branded a deserter or traitor. He dresses again in what is left of his uniform and bicorne and ties Simoon to a pole, but she escapes. Simoom, enraged by his attempted departure, charges and pounces upon him. He is forced to kill the leopard in self-defense.
Wounded by Simoom and suffering intense heat and thirst, Augustin collapses before he is able to find his way back to civilization. On the brink of death, he is rescued by a passing Arab on a camel, and returned to his regiment.
Filming took place in Jordan and the ruins in Petra. Director Lavinia Currier invested 5 million USD of her own money in addition to writing and producing the film. Currier used animals that were chosen at birth to be raised with enough human interaction, thereby making the process of filming scenes with the leopard much easier. Despite this, there were some close calls during the making of the movie with actor Ben Daniels. Daniels reportedly almost got bitten by the leopard. Prior to filming, Daniels spent time with a Bedouin family out in the Wadi Rum to develop a feel for the environment, something that would assist him in his acting.
The follow-up Passion in the Desert film soundtrack was released in conjunction with the film on June 16, 1998 . Composers José Nieto and Hamza El Din compiled up to 17 tracks altogether. A DVD version of the film was released in December 2005.
|The Lost City||by Jose Nieto|
|Simoon||by Jose Nieto|
|Chase Near The Lost City||by Jose Nieto|
|A Dream||by Jose Nieto|
|Helalisa||by Hamza El Din|
|The Shepherd Boy||by Jose Nieto|
|The Attack Of The Mamelucs||by Jose Nieto|
|A Night In The Lost City||by Jose Nieto|
|Avoiding The Beast||by Jose Nieto|
|Ollin Arageed||by Hamza El Din|
|The Painter||by Jose Nieto|
|A Friend||by Jose Nieto|
|Alone (The Painter's Death)||by Jose Nieto|
|The Desert||by Jose Nieto|
|Walking In Circles (Lost In The Desert)||by Jose Nieto|
|The Leopard (Infidelity)||by Jose Nieto|
|The End Of A Passion||by Jose Nieto|
- Official Movie Site
- Passion in the Desert on IMDb
- Passion in the Desert at AllMovie
- 'Passion in the Desert' at Rotten Tomatoes.com
- The French Text for "Une Passion Dans le Désert"
- The short story "A Passion in the Desert" by Honoré de Balzac; Translated into English by Ernest Dowson
- A Passion in the Desert public domain audiobook at LibriVox