Prepare to have your mind boggled in Jamil Dehlavi’s Born of Fire, an unsettling, ambiguous, strange film about a musician searcheing for the Master Flautist, a supernatural creature who is planning to blow up the world.
Taking forth the concept of the supernatural set to destroy the world, Born of Fire at first showcases a lot of promise. That promise however never fully lives up to its potential.
In its defence, Born of Fire is a film that deserves credit for its obscure yet remarkable artistic depictions alone. A variety of scenes deliver intense and surreal beauty, inclusive of both landscape and architecture. A surrealist adventure into the heart of Arabian mythology inspires the unusual and the extraordinary. Perhaps my own lack of knowledge in Arabian myths are to blame for the film falling flat, and it is evident the director (Jamil Dehlavi) tries to explore the notion of good and bad in humanity, sadly it just didn’t quite deliver overall.
The basic plot follows musician Paul Bergson (Peter Firth), as he is haunted by mysterious music that leads him to meet the unnamed woman (Suzan Crowley), an astronomer who is also plagued by the same strange noises.
After witnessing some unusual activity surrounding the sun (and by unusual I mean a large skull that causes an eclipse), the two travel to Turkey in a bid to uncover the secrets of the Master Musician (Orla Pedersen). This Master also holds the answers to the mysterious death of Paul’s father, who lost his life in Turkey on the day of Paul’s birth.
The trip takes us to a world inhabited by Djinns and Shaytans, supernatural Islamic creatures, respectively born of air and fire. We are introduced to The Silent One (Nabil Shaban), a deformed man who is arguably the most likeable character through his kind-hearted nature. Though his true importance doesn’t come to light until nearing the end of the film, Shaban deserves credit for delivering such a bizarre character with fantastic talent.
All in all the first hour was disappointing. The second half an hour however was action-infused, and it was clear that things would tie together at some point. Although I wasn’t captivated by the film, the stunning cinematography kept the plot moving.
As the plot unfolds further Paul is drawn to the brink of insanity, and the world must be saved from the Maser Musician one way or another. The Master is depicted as a devil-like figure with an all-round evil nature embedded within, his demise is key to saving the world as we know it.
The closing quotes from the Koran read to me that the plot itself isn’t as important to the director as the overall symbolism his film has tried to create is. In fact, Born of Fire didn’t really need speech or for that matter as much story as it tried to deliver. The unique imagery and flow of the plot in a sense spoke for itself.
If symbolism was the overall aim, the film has succeeded. If a film with enjoyable substance in terms of a supernatural storyline is what you are after, this probably won’t fulfil your expectations.
Perhaps further research on my part and a second watch would change my opinion. To end on a positive note, Dehlavi did showcase remarkable scenery, and his film has taken into account a style of Islamic horror that isn’t commonly delivered. Although this isn’t a work I would essentially recommend for an enjoyable afternoon watch, there are elements that could be further explored and understood.
Written by Leah Wimpenny
Directed by: Jamil Dehlavi
Written by: Rafiq Abdullah
Starring: Peter Firth, Suzan Crowley, Stefan Kalipha
Released: 1987 / Genre: Drama/Horror/Fantasy
Country: UK / IMDB
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Born of Fire was released on Blu-ray in the UK on September 24.