Arid looking?

Photo by Anne McCarthy on

The book Meetings with Remarkable Men was a record of travels, published in English in 1963. The author G.I. Gurdjieff was born in Alexandropol in the then Russian Empire. His father was Greek and his mother Armenian. The diverse place he lived in caused him to go wandering to find inner meaning and the hidden realities behind life, who seemed misguided in his answers. What is stunning in the film version, no joke, is the desert, even as desert is unlikely to be described as stunning, even as filmed in the arid, dry regions of rock, cavern, and craggy outdoors. Perhaps eye catching is the better word. What the desert did for me is located in my brain, as well as my eye. I sensed the search can feel like walking through a desert while seeking the oasis and the indoor scenes involved in-depth conversations that reveal the real desires behind the search, a stunning discourse in itself. I do not know if the book gave off such an atmosphere in reading it, but the film adaptation certainly gives off that effect.

Searching is evident right from the start of the film, as a young Gurdijieff (played by Mikica Dimitrijevic) is intently watching a ceremony in a valley that involves traditional musical instruments played by the local people who seem to be going through a ritual of a sort, as if the boy is looking because he needs to understand. At that point, the young Gurdijieff is taken by the hand and guided by an elder towards an unseen place, followed by separate scenes of obscure rituals and philosophical chatter with his elders, father, and peers. As his curiosity grows even more, the older Gurdijieff (Dragan Maksimovic) encounters Prince Lubovedsky (Terrence Stamp) who influences him on his journey in a brotherly way to discover truth. Gurdijieff eventually believes the answer he is looking is at the mysterious Sarmoung Brotherhood, perhaps this was a sect or a cult. He is accompanied by others on his journey, in some way, be that other curious seekers or those who believe in the cause. The final scenes are a tad uncomfortable because of their proximity to cult-like places, and the content of Gurdijieff’s ideas are unconvincing, but I found I connected with the journeying, and its arrival moved me, while my thoughts center on compassion for Gurdijieff who seemed misguided in his answers.

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