The Sheltering Sky (1990)

The Sheltering Sky (1990)

A Story by Doug Ordunio

a scenic film based on the book about a husband and wife in North Africa


Director: Bernardo Bertolucci


The novel by Paul Bowles upon which the film is based was written in 1949. Bowles is the narrator for scenes in the film. Although he is seen in a cameo role, he is not seen speaking.


Husband and wife, Port (John Malkovich) and Kit (Debra Winger) Moresby have traveled to Tangier with their friend George Tunner (Campbell Scott). The Moresbys plan to stay for a year or two; Tunner will be there for a month. The couple’s purpose of the trip is to try and “freshen” up their marriage. Port is supposedly a composer; Kit is a writer.  When they arrive, we see her retrieve a hat from a box that contains the book Nightwood, a 1936 novel by Djuna Barnes. {This book was famous for being one of the first books by a known novelist to portray explicit homosexuality.}


Port doesn’t really trust Tunner and although they have separate rooms, we suspect that Kit and Tunner may have consummated their relationship. The couple meet some annoying British tourists, a mother and son, the Lyles (Eric is played by Timothy Spall who has appeared in Gothic and Vanilla Sky.) Mother Lyle is a total racist.


As the film progresses, Port and Kit seem to grow closer. Kit’s feelings are truly brought out when Port comes down with typhoid fever, and they wind up in a military fort that is in the middle of nowhere. After his death, Kit leaves his body and wanders off in the desert where she takes up with a mysterious black-robed figure named Belqassim (Eric Vu-An). When they arrive at his home, he dresses her as a boy and holds her captive�"something that seems to appeal to her. Eventually her ruse is discovered, and everyone realizes she is female.


Ultimately, an English woman discovers where she is and takes her back to the Grand Hotel in Tangiers where she first started, and the plan is for Tunner to re-unite with her again. However, Kit wanders off and in the end. We hear the voice of Bowles, asking one of those unanswerable infinite questions. She answers, but the journey ends with his voice and his silent face.


The look of the film is absolutely magnificent. The locales in the Sahara are desolate but extremely beautiful. The various pieces of middle-Eastern music as well as the score of Ryuichi Sakamoto are quite unique.


© 2011 Doug Ordunio

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Added on December 2, 2011
Last Updated on December 2, 2011


Doug Ordunio
Doug Ordunio

Tujunga, CA

I have been writing for a little while-- Please read and you might be entertained. Please don't send me tons of read requests. If you must send one, make sure it's your best stuff. From me, you will.. more..