Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

Directed by Gordon Hessler and starring John Phillip Law, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) is an excellent example of the strain of Sword & Sorcery film derived from the tradition of The Arabian Nights.  Each of the three major themes of the genre (Destiny, Initiation, and Conflict) weave their way through the entirety of the film.

Golden Voyage begins with Sinbad and his crew on the high seas where he comes to posess a strange amulet that ultimately leads him into a race against the evil sorcerer Koura for the Fountain of Destiny that will grant youth, the "shield of darkness," and riches.  Along the way he befriends a slave girl and the son of a wealthy merchant.

The role destiny plays in this film is as something that guides events, but does not determine them.  Sinbad's favorite slogan, "Trust in Allah, but tie up your horse" is indicative of such a perspective and referenced several times throughout the film.  Destiny's role is made clearer still in Lemuria when the Oracle tells Sinbad:

Destiny, Destiny.
Destiny is invisible yet visible.
And men may try to hide.
Yet its waters mark you clearly...
like a rainbow in the sky.
Destiny is a place where both good and evil wait...
and yet their very equality negates their power.
For it is the very deeds of weak and mortal men...
that may tip the scales one way or the other.
And the world shall know, and you shall know...
which way the fates have chosen, you shall go.

This places enormous agency in the hands of individual and priviledges a view of self-determination above pre-determination.  When they are trapped in the Temple of the Oracle, Sinbad makes this philosophy of personal responsibility especially clear when he says to the Vizier "A man's destiny lies in his own hands! A live dog is better than a dead lion!"

The film covers initiation, the second major theme of the Sword & Sorcery genre, from the perspective of Haroun, whom should be considered the secondary protagonist of the film.  Haroun starts out as the lazy, hashish-smoking son of the wealthy merchant Hakim who convinces Sinbad to take Haroun on his journey to make him into a man.  By the end of the film, he is brave enough to help Sinbad by pushing the Goddess Kali off of a cliff.  In the final scene, he even asks Sinbad if you can join him as a member of his crew.

Finally, the theme of conflict between sorcery and physical courage manifests itself throughout the film.  Sinbad and his crew must prevent the evil sorcerer, Koura, from reaching the Fountain of Destiny first so that he doesn't have the power to take over the world, elimonating freedom and happiness.  Koura's use of magic throughout the film is portrayed as an act of cowardice and cheating.  There are two particular scenes that stand out as examples.  First, when Koura faces Sinbad among the worshipers of Kali, Sinbad draws his sword, but Koura tosses his to Kali who draws out five other swords (one in each of her hands).  Thus, Koura evades Sinbad and lets his magic fight for him.  The second example, presents the almost cliche magic trick of invisibility.  In front of the Fountain of Destiny, Sinbad faces off against Koura, who uses the "shield of darkness" to obtain an unfair advantage over Sinbad.  Of course, this does not avail him.

A final point about the film that is worthy of mention is the theme of freedom which may actually exist as a theme throughout all sword and sorcery.  Koura seeks to enslave the Vizier's kingdom along with the whole world and Sinbad seeks nothing but freedom.  In fact, Sinbad turns down the crown, and explains to his live Margiana "I value freedom and a king is never truly free."

Thus far, my view is that the Sinbad films fully gain their footing in the Sword & Sorcery genre with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

No comments:

Post a Comment