Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One

Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One ★★★★★

A six-and-a-half-hour opus divided into three parts by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, Arabian Nights singlehandedly, and quite exhaustively, redefines the political film. Inspired by the severe austerity measures that crippled his country a few years ago, Gomes beautifully blends fact and fiction into a searing magical realist document of governmental negligence and more importantly, the strength and resilience of the people affected. Borrowing the structure of the centuries-old One Thousand And One Nights, Arabian Nights is able to effortlessly move from story to story, reality to fantasy, incorporating both narrative and non-narrative styles, that becomes nothing less than miraculous. Criminally underseen and underappreciated.

Volume 3: The Enchanted One is admittedly the most challenging chapter in Gomes' trilogy. After the pleasant diversion of returning to Scheherazade for an all too brief escape to a beautiful archipelago, fearing soon that the King will grow weary of her stories and end her life, Gomes spends the last hour detailing the lives of finch trainers to such exhaustive extent it might test one's patience, if not for the subtle implications that the whole thing is a metaphor for the tragic permanence of the government's war on culture, erasing large chunks of potential experiences as akin to the silencing of a bird's song. But never once throughout all six hours of Arabian Nights does Gomes ever shortchange the resilience of his fellow citizens. None shall be defeated, and through unity they shall overcome all. Each one unique in his/her own way. And likewise, Arabian Nights is certainly unlike any film I've ever seen.