Passion in the Desert

on June 12, 1998 by Ed Scheid
   Set in Egypt in 1798, this screenplay (co-written by director/producer Lavinia Currier) is based on a novella by Honore de Balzac and tells the story of a unique relationship. Augustin Robert (Ben Daniels, "Beautiful Thing"), a captain in Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, is separated from his regiment by a sandstorm, and finds himself alone in the desert. In the darkness of a cave, Augustin sees a pair of eyes and is horrified to realize they belong to a leopard--who later leads him to water and shares her kill. Soon, Augustin and the leopard become close companions. Daniels brings a strong physicality to his part as Augustin, as he begins to adapt his posture and movements to that of the leopard, which he has named Simoom ("breath of the desert"). Daniels also conveys the soldier's growing emotional attachment to the leopard. The simple plot sustains interest as the unusual relationship takes some surprising turns.    Starring Ben Daniels and Michel Piccoli. Directed by Lavinia Currier. Written by Lavinia Currier and Martin Edmunds. Produced by Lavinia Currier. A Fine Line release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for violence including some depictions of barbarism, and for nudity. Running time: 92 min.
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