|House of Sand and Fog: Of Shahs and Shame|
Dreamworks Home Entertainment (DVD), ASIN B0001DMVBC
A kingdom by the sea swirls a deadly shroud for the living. This film circles in flashback, trailing mists of history. A self-absorbed young American (Jennifer Connelly) battles for her inheritance, conflicting with the once great and mighty. An Iranian colonel (Ben Kingsley) and his aristocratic wife (Shohreh Aghdashloo) prolong a parallel war, claiming her inheritance for their son (Jonathan Ahdout). No drama could be more ironic than this, chronicling feudal chaos in our midst.
This story belongs to new American citizens no less than shabby youth, plunged into poverty. Here, both depend for their identity on lost glory. Time retreats as we experience the link between Humanity and Land -- a conflict too long for mortals. Death and taxes remind us that what we own today claims us tomorrow. Who wins when a sheriff (Ron Eldard) pits civil justice against fleeing immigrants? The pictured Shah of Iran, enshrined in the colonel's household, could just as easily speak for Saddam Hussein -- or King Tutankhamen.
White vistas and purling oceans create an eternal seascape through which humans pass like ghosts. Their names matter little, for tragedy elevates this rebellious female to the level of Antigone. Integrity alone enjoys bragging rights. Even romance between this woman and a policeman lures her to another outpost, where Nature surrounds her -- beyond conquest and ownership. The colonel's son awaits the same fate in the future, for his career already depends on a lost kingdom.
Connelly holds her own against Kingsley -- a remarkable feat, but her vulnerability outweighs his strength when suicide enters the plot. As an unstable character, she earns our pity, while erasing all sense of responsibility. On a logical level, this miscreant manipulates everyone she meets, yet only her enemies fulfill the roles of parents. Dialing phones and whispering pleas, she escapes into a fantasy world -- her only real legacy from relatives too busy to comprehend now.
Kingsley could be playing the Shah of Iran himself in this harrowing drama. With a tendency toward violence, he carries his career like epaulettes on his shoulders. Indignant at each intrusion into his realm, far be it from him to empathize with inexperienced property owners. With a capacity for mystical symbolism, he swings into action like God's arm of justice. In this role, his artistry spans the changing fortunes of a refugee who remembers that, once upon a time, Fortune smiled upon him.
Bucking Iranian history, while simultaneously defying civil rights in America, Ron Eldard attempts to resolve Constitutional issues single-handedly. Caught between a monarch of nothing and a queen of his dreams, he rescues the maiden only to find himself arrested. Generational issues will keep an audience on the edge of seats they don't own either from beginning to end. To revisit the eternal warfare -- and crusades -- of fathers and daughters, invest in the House of Sand and Fog.
Along with Percy Bysshe Shelley, Time whispers in these environs: "The lone and level sands stretch far away" ("Ozymandias," line 14).
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