For anyone familiar with the prolific work of local independent filmmaker Bill Mousoulis, the images in A Sufi Valentine seem at first like old friends. Couples are glimpsed at the silent, strained end of an argument we will never understand; individuals are captured in still lives of everyday solitude.
But it does not take long for some exciting new elements to be added. A Sufi Valentine is a collaboration between Mousoulis and poet Ali Alizadeh. In the performance version of the work, the poems are read live as the images are projected on video; on the DVD version, the poetry is mixed into the soundtrack.
Alizadeh is a modern exponent of Sufi poetry, mixing his own work with translations of classics by Hafiz and Rumi. The intensity of the lyrics is seemingly a long way from the restrained minimalism of Mousoulis' imagery:
face stars against the dark cave's backdrop
The juxtaposition is initially startling and even disconcerting, but eventually the images start to warm up in response. Slowly, as the piece unfolds, we see the beginnings of new relationships, or the arrival of artistic inspiration.
The path of a dancer (Safoura Alizadeh) is the most intriguing. We see her alone in a studio, seemingly blocked and in despair. She lies on the ground or listens to music, but nothing works. That is, until one of those subtle and magical transformations often seen in Mousoulis' films.
The moment when she finally liberates herself into dance is no Bollywood spectacular. But in the context of A Sufi Valentine it serves to bring everything together – all the small tentative steps taken by all the characters in their daily lives, moving ever closer (even as they are unaware of it) to the kind of physical joy and spiritual communion powerfully promised in the poetry.
MORE Mousoulis: Desire
© Adrian Martin June 2004