The Desert of the Tartars – Il Deserto dei Tartari (Valerio Zurlini – 1976)

Open wide spaces of panoramic desert views, soldiers perched high on their guard in an ancient, semi destructed fortress, waiting for an unseen enemy – the tartars – that for years and years never comes. Despite this inactivity, there is a total obedience to rules and regulations in the face of a non-existent enemy, which at times creates social frictions as one fellow soldier forgets the day’s password and get shot by the sentry.

The film brings about a philosophical and I would say timely question, what do you do when you’re surrounded by omni-present threat that never materialized to the point when it finally begins to appear in the horizon – itsĀ  occurences are automatically hushed down among the troops in order to retain the status quo of inaction.

There are two options: You can acknowledge danger’s presence and be prepared when it arrives and act; or you can completely ignore it and sink into bored passivity. The choice presented in this film, is literally keeping a middle ground of watching the horizon, yet ignoring what gradually manifested itself.

Sounds familiar no? A lot like what drove our global economy down these days. The signs for the looming tsunami were there all along, but the watch guards chose to ignore their existence completely and treat them as false mirage.

In this classic masterpiece, director Valerio Zurlini adapted Dino Buzzati‘s 1940 novel, shot in Iran’s Bam enigmatic Citadel, boasting Europe’s most famous actors such as Vittorio Gassman, Philippe Noiret, and Jean-Louis Trintignant. The film was produced by Jacques Perrin, you may recognize by his later role as older Toto in 1988 Cinema Paradiso and brought to life by the tense score of maestro Ennio Morricone.

By Shlomi Ron

Visual marketing guy with a penchant for fine Italian cinema.

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