In Desert and Wilderness | Chicago Reader

In Desert and Wilderness

In this old-fashioned adventure from Poland (2001), based on a 1911 novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz (Quo Vadis? ), an adolescent boy and a plucky young girl are kidnapped by an Arab tribe as part of an ill-fated uprising against British colonists. But they escape and make their way across the deserts and jungles of Africa, encountering hungry lions, an injured elephant, a pair of slaves, and a badly wounded explorer waiting to die. Jacek Januszyk's cinematography emphasizes the harsh beauty of the landscape without overwhelming the story, and given the film's premise, writer-director Gavin Hood generally avoids the Kiplingesque cliches: black Africans, typically maligned as savages, are treated with unusual equanimity, though the Arab characters are either bloodthirsty killers or cowardly double-dealers. In Polish with subtitles. 115 min.

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