Synopsis

We don't realize it, but Une Gazelle Dans Le Vent begins at its conclusion. In the foreground we see a unique, beautiful flower in full bloom, and in the distance, not quite in focus (as if it is a promise or a dream and not yet reality), we see a figure through a doorway, playing in a courtyard, to the sound of a child's laughter. The scene conveys contentment, the elements in harmony and entirely positive.

Two years earlier Souad, still a schoolgirl and our heroine, meets Jalil, and it is love at first sight. Souad defies tradition at every turn. She is headstrong and wilful, smokes at school, and concocts elaborate alibis to cover her misdeeds. She is utterly carefree and makes up her own rules as she goes along. Her single-mindedness extends to her response to Jalil...and instead of conducting a traditional romance, or indeed waiting for her parents to choose a husband for her, she succumbs to her yearning for him...

Souad's older brother Larby should by rights be the free spirit that Souad is, but he lacks her passion. He is insular, frustrated. He wants success and wealth and the woman, any woman, worthy of his dreams, but life is a struggle for him. Instead of landing a good, secure job, he sells black market petrol. And despises himself for it. He feels cheap, worthless, but believes that somehow, he must be able to break out of the life he has fallen into. But how..?

When Larby finds out what his sister Souad has done with Jalil, he reacts with rage. Perhaps his feelings are just those of an older brother. Or perhaps he is jealous that she has found love. Either way, his rage is real, and he is no friend to her at a time when she needs one.

In fact, far from being happy for her or supportive, even Souad's best friend Mina lets her down, by revealing the secret of her love, which Souad entrusted to her. The confrontation between them is so heated they end up in a fight, at the end of which Mina has been knocked unconscious – but Souad believes she has killed her...

And just like that, Souad's charmed, carefree life takes a dark turn, and she runs... Her love for Jalil was and is real. To be with him was an expression of love. But the cost is extreme. Her brother has turned on her, her best friend (so far as she is aware) is dead, and she herself is a killer. In a flash, she has become even more worthless than her brother... She is soon arrested for attempted murder. Her relief that her friend is still alive and that she herself is not a killer is tempered by the fact that Mina is in a coma, and she herself is in prison, and may stay there for a long, long time...

Jalil meanwhile has been looking for Souad. He loves her as she loves him and he can't get her out of his mind. He goes to Souad's house where he meets Larby. He speaks of his love and his need to see her and ends up leaving a letter for Souad expressing his love for her. He leaves the letter with Larby. What else can he do..?

Larby feels no sympathy or compassion towards Jalil, only rage for the harm he has done to his sister. For Larby, love and romance are the stuff of movies and stories. He wants love, he craves it, but who could love him? He has no money. He has no standing. All he has are his dark, dashing looks, but that only takes him so far in a society that requires a man to have the means to provide for a wife. To at least have prospects. But he has none...

And yet... As Souad's luck changed for the worse as did Jalil's, the two lovers locked in a love that cannot be, Larby's life takes an unexpected turn... He meets a European woman, Karmen, and the attraction between them is spontaneous. It begins casually, the two talking, she telling him that she is in Morocco to find a unique, almost mystic plant that only blooms once every three hundred years. Larby is mesmerised by her, and empathises immediately. They are both in search of something that they know exists, but is unattainable - for him, it's a woman worthy of his dreams, and for her, a unique flower... He is taken by her beauty, the way she stands out from those around her by being different, unique. He loves the way she speaks, the sound of her voice. Everything. And what he loves most is the way she smiles at him. The way she accepts him. The fact that she does not judge him, does not look down at him. For her, he is a handsome man – the physical embodiment of stories she may have been told as a child, the descendant of characters from "1001 Arabian Nights". She has the sense that he is a knight, perhaps a knight in shining armour, someone to help her on her quest of discovery, she not knowing that his mount is just a motorbike, weighed down by smuggled fuel. For Larby, this is love; for Karmen, this is carnal desire.

Larby is on Cloud 9. He suddenly understands what love can be; knows what it is to have such feelings returned by another. He goes to Souad and apologises. He is happy beyond all reason, but so wrapped up in his own experience that he cannot see the despair Souad is going through. Perhaps he only went to her because he wanted to share what he was feeling with someone who would understand, someone who would not laugh at his dancing on air, someone who would not judge him...

In many ways, Souad and Larby have swapped places. He is now carefree and in love. She is now imprisoned literally while he, before, was imprisoned figuratively. That evening he gets drunk and dreams or hallucinates about Karmen, picturing her in an erotic, sensuous dance - the two of them dancing together, but never touching. Once he wakes, intoxicated by love and alcohol, he crashes his motorbike... Larby is taken to the hospital where Mina still lies in a coma.

Jalil, lovelorn, unable to understand why Souad has not communicated with him, goes away. His love for her is so great he can't be without her, can't stand being in a place that constantly reminds him of her if she is not with him. And as he goes, Souad discovers herself to be pregnant...

Mina wakes from her coma and explains that Souad had not meant to kill her. What happened was an accident, a terrible accident. Souad is released from prison. But what is her future..? The time she spent with Jalil made her a woman, gave her adult feelings that she acted on in her carefree way. But now Jalil is gone and she is to be a mother, and what does her future hold..? She feels herself to be living a life as worthless as the one her brother Larby had lived. Who could love her now? Who could want her now? Still a schoolgirl but a woman, and in many respects her life over before it has even begun...

She goes to the hospital. She visits Mina and Larby, and finally learns of the letter Jalil wrote to her. Jalil writes of his love for her, his desire to spend his life with her, to marry her. He says he has gone to make his way in the world, to work hard, to be worthy of her. And suddenly Souad has a life again. This is not the end but maybe a beginning and she sets off in search of him.

In time Larby leaves the hospital, but there is no word from Souad. She has disappeared. Her father sends Larby to find her.

Souad's journey is not an easy one. She goes from place to place, following in Jalil's footsteps. She works as a waitress and even pregnant, is the target of a rape attempt. She sacrifices everything, is prepared to endure any hardship, just so long as she can find her way back to Jalil's side.

Larby cannot find her. He feels he has failed her and failed their father. He cannot find her and hates to go home, but what choice does he have? She has gone, disappeared.

Souad is driven by a greater strength. Carrying the child of the man she loves, she perseveres...and eventually finds Jalil. They are together again, together as they should always have been, together forever. But they stand against a world that cannot easily accept them. Unmarried and pregnant and in love with a man who cannot fully provide, what fate awaits Souad and her child..? She and Jalil decide to leave their world behind, the only world they have known, and escape to Spain...

They set off in a small fishing boat as thunder rolls across the sea, lightning flashing on the horizon and illuminating tantalising glimpses of their destination, their future...

But the storm takes them and destroys their boat. They are washed up on the shore, but which shore..? They quickly discover they are still in Morocco. They accept their fate and embrace it. They decide to return to Souad's home. Imperfect and frustrating and traditional as it is, she loves her home and family. Perhaps they will turn their back on her, but she will not turn her back on them. And the decision proves to be right, because her family welcome her home with open arms.

And Larby has a gift for his sister. Somewhere in the mountains he has found a flower, a beautiful, unique flower that only blooms once every three hundred years. He could have given it to the woman who is still in his dreams, the European woman, the one who looks at him with desire and who he still loves. But instead, he gives it to his sister, who he loves more... But he tells her nothing about the flower's significance. All he says is that it is a beautiful, wild mountain flower, just as Souad is. Only he and the audience know what he has given up in choosing to give her the flower rather than give it to the European... Like love itself – the love of a man or woman and the love of a family – it is the most precious of gifts.

A photograph is taken of Souad and Jalil and their friends and family together. The screen cuts to white as a camera's flash goes off...

And now we see the photograph, that single moment, captured on film and mounted in a frame. We pull back, revealing a series of photographs, marking the passage of time. Souad and Jalil's wedding. Larby at the wedding with the European woman at his side. Months later, Souad very pregnant. Later still, the family members gathered around Jalil, holding a baby with Souad at his side. More time passes. The baby grows. Learns to walk...

And now in the foreground we see a unique, beautiful flower in full bloom, and in the distance, not quite in focus as if it is a promise or a dream and not yet reality, we see a figure through a doorway, playing in a courtyard, to the sound of a child's laughter. The scene conveys contentment, the elements in harmony and entirely positive. And this is now reality.

e-mail: [email protected] | © Asymmetric 2006

All photographs by David Hofberg unless otherwise noted.