Another Sky (1954)
Director: Gavin Lambert.
Starring: Catherine Lacey (Selena Prouse), Ahmed Ben Mohammed (Ahmed), Lee Montague (Michael), Victoria Grayson (Rose Graham), Alan Forbes (Bancroft), Taibe (Tayeb).
in the 1950s, an English woman becomes a paid companion of a wealthy expatriate and is changed by the mysteries of Morocco
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Morocco. Rose Graham hears music in the air and comes out hoping that the song would bring him back. She says it was so long ago that she thought she would have forgotten. She adds: "The past was buried with Rose Graham five years ago. The past is only a dream that brought me here and left me for lost." Omar is the only fellow who works for her. With the music playing in her head, she remembers when she first came to Morocco.
Flashback. Governess Rose is leaving England for the very first time. She will be taking a job as a companion to the English woman Mrs. Selena Prouse living in Morocco. A sign says: "Marrakech Gueliz". She gets off the train and take a buggy ride to where she is going. When the horse and buggy have a hard time getting through a large crowd of people in the middle of a square, Rose starts getting nervous. A man named Ahmed comes to her rescue. He tells her he already knows who she is and where she is going.
Ahmed brings her to the place of her employer. Selena comes to the door and is surprised to see Rose Graham at her door. She tells Rose that she lost her postcard and thought that it was tomorrow that she was coming. How Ahmed knew, she has no idea. She says he is inscrutable. They go into the room where Selena's sister slept. He sister died recently and Selena was so lonely that she thought of the idea of a companion. Selena takes Rose upstairs to show her where she will be staying. They pass the tiny room where the houseboy stays and then pass by the house boy.
As Rose unpacks, Selena explains to her that she wants Rose to have her own life here in Marrakech. It will take Rose some time to get used to the ways of Morocco and she advises her not to ride a camel because the rider is very sore after the ride.
The next morning Selena and Rose go the the square to do some shopping. In the daytime the square was full of street entertainers. Selena shops and Rose carries the packages. The older lady goes across the road to say hello to a male friend named Michelle. Rose waits for her. They go for a drink of tea. After she finishes her tea, Rose looks out over the town from the roof cafe. She sees a flag being raised on the mosque and asks what does it mean? Selena tells her it's a call to prayer. Looking down on the square Rose sees Ahmed and asks if she can go with him to see some of the sights. That's fine with Selena.
Ahmed takes Rose to see a snake charmer, Rose takes a photo of the boy on the street who helped her the other day, they go bazaar shopping and Rose purchases a bracelet. They listen to street musicians and watch street dancers. Rose is especially pleased at the eagerness of the young boys to pose for photos (for a small fee). She says this way she has children back in her life. She leaves a gift for the Selena's house boy.
Selena goes out with Michelle. The house boy dressed in his new shirt shows it off to Rose.
The next morning Michelle comes downstairs dressed in his swimming trunks. He asks Rose to join them because he is taking Selena to the swimming pool. Rose is a little shocked to see him half-naked. Rose says yes she will go.
Michelle pplays with Rose in the water. A man named Bancroft comes over and Michelle calls to him to get into the water. Rose gets out of the pool. She asks Selena who is the new fellow and Selena says she only knows that he is an American. Later the four people have some drinks at a table. A woman clothed in Islamic garb, and with her entire face covered, gets impatient with Bancroft and starts blowing Bancroft's automobile horn. Bancroft offers his apologies, invites the other three to a party at his place and goes over to the woman.
Rose loves the Minorah with its mountainous background. It was once was a royal pavilion. The party is being held here. Selena, Rose and Michelle arrive. Rose toes outside on the veranda to take a look at the river and the surroundings. The musicians arrive. A few of them dance while they play their instruments. Rose loves the music and the dancing. A phonograph is now used to go back to western music. The couples start dancing on the floor. An older man dances with Rose. Bancroft dances with a lovely blonde. Bancroft cuts in so he can dance with Selena, so Michelle cuts in to dance with Rose. And now the blonde gets the older man. She doesn't look very happy about it.
Rose goes outside to take a little walk around. One of the musicians, who noticed Rose looking at him during the performance, comes out to see Rose. They can only use a few words to communicate with each other. They learn each other's names. The fellow is named Tayeb.
Back to the present. Rose still hears the music in her head.
Flashback. Rose walks in the square by herself. She sees the musicians that were at Bancroft's party a couple of times playing in the streets. Rose asks Ahmed to set up a meeting between her and the musician Tayeb. Ahmed says he will. When Rose returns to the square one of the little boys she likes gives her a note about Tayeb.
The couple talk with each other. Tayeb takes a photo of her. Ahmed comes over to talk to her. She gives him some money and he pays Tayeb. She's a little upset about having to pay Tayeb. "But it was the custom of the country . . . "
Another meeting is set up between Tayeb and Rose. Tayeb plays songs for her as they walk around. This time they hold hands a bit. She sees Tayeb again, but she was delayed by Selena who wanted Rose to read to her some more. Selena changes her mind and lets Rose go. This time Tayeb kisses Rose.
Michael dances with Selena on her terrace. Rose comes up but doesn't have much fun. She seems a bit depressed. At night Rose is awake in bed and she thinks that can be no possibility of a real future with Tayeb. She is thinking that she must meet with him once more to tell him it is over.
The next day Rose asks Ahmed to set up another meeting with Tayeb for her. He tells her that Tayeb has disappeared. She gives Ahmed the money to arrange the meeting, but Ahmed won't take it from her. He just repeats in French that Tayeb has disappeared. Rose doesn't give up, but rather goes around asking different people if they have seen Tayeb? She sees for herself that Tayeb is no longer with his musical group. She really walks fast through the city.
Rose calls Selena to ask for the rest of the day off. A man she knows is leaving tonight and she wants to be with him. Selena lets her have the time off.
Rose starts her walking again. A little boy hands her a note from Ahmed saying that Tayeb had been thrown out of his musical group. She says that the old man was angry because he had not been paid enough for Tayeb's meetings with Rose. Rose runs into Ahmed and asks if he has any news. Ahmed says Tayeb has gone up into the mountains to a village there. Rose tells him to please find out for her where this village is. She will gladly pay Ahmed because she desperately wants to see Tayeb at least one more time.
Rose returns to the house and it appears that she takes money from Selena. She comes back in an hour to speak to Ahmed who says the village is Astan. Ahmed says it's a long journey to the village. Rose takes a bus to go to Astan. Ahmed decides to go with her.
Rose feels like she is leaving everything behind her to take this long journey. On the bus there are a goat and a chicken. Up and up the bus goes into the mountains. On the other side of the mountain the bus descends. Rose falls asleep on the bus.
The bus reaches a village. Rose gets a little room in an Arab hotel. The next day she expects to take another bus farther east. But this is as far as the bus service goes. So they make a journey on donkeys the rest of the way to Astan. Ahmed tells Rose to wait with they donkeys. When he returns he has with him a woman who knows Tayeb. The woman says that Tayeb is gone. Rose is disheartened. And this is not Astan. They have to go farther east. Off they go. Each village they came to they who know Tayeb would say that Astan is farther east of the village.
They come to another village where the women are singing and dancing to music. One of the dancers goes topless (brief nudity). While Rose watches, Ahmed puts a piece of paper in her purse and slowly walks backwards away from her. The performance stops and Rose can't find Ahmed. She gets nervous and then discovers a map in her purse from Ahmed. The map show a mountain and a small village at its base. She decides to go on alone to the small village. She never saw Ahmed again. He secretly came to her and now he secretly left her.
Rose reaches her destination, but there is no one around. She sits down by the ruins of a wall and falls asleep. In the morning she looks around, but is not sure which way to go. A truck comes along and the driver stops, but Rose just goes and hides from the driver.
Rose treks through the Sahara Desert. people stare at her s she passes them. She decides to catch up to a man, but finds that he is not Tayeb. Along the way she abandons her sandals. Later she collapses on the sand. She has a photo of Tayeb still in her hands. Two men find her. One of them is Omar.
Roses says: "That was the end -- the end of a dream. I died." Omar arranged everything for her. He arranged for Rose Graham to die and be buried.
Back to the present. Rose says she heard the music and remembered. Omar comes over and touches her on the shoulder. They go inside the house.
Is this an historical film? It's a good film. But historical? Not really. The story is of a duck out of water, in this case an English virginal woman named Rose who came to Morocco. Without a fellow Englishman or an American with her, she was frightened by the great differences between England and Morocco. She finally gets to relax a bit only when she gets to the home of her employer, another English woman, but an older one. This is her refuge, her shelter from the "otherness" the director of the film liked to talk about. She has to really depend upon her Moroccan guide Ahmed. She feels safe with Ahmed as he knows about the culture and the people. Rose had to depend on him, even to arrange the hiring of a certain musician that she liked. Rose looked on it as a date, but the Muslims said it was a business. She had to pay Ahmed, the promoter and the musician, Tayeb. Rose didn't like this, but it had to be done the Muslim way, so she did it that way.
The feeling of "otherness" intensifies when she goes searching for her musician in small, very isolated villages. Now she was really out of her element and depended again on Ahmed to help her.
Historical ,no, but culturally, a very interesting film. It's just too bad that the film was only in black and white. It would have been nice to see the colors of Morocco.
Anyway, it's a good film and does tell you quite a bit about Moroccan culture.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
P.S. On the back cover of the DVD, it does mention some history. "The dreamy black and white cinematography by Walter Lassally captures the steamy atmosphere of North Africa in the 1950s, where a colony of expatriate artists and writers thrived in a bohemian existence."
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