Harem is an album of gorgeous images, aligned to tell a story, but it’s a poor excuse for a dramatic motion picture packaged for the international marketplace.
Despite an investment of $10 million, which afforded stars Ben Kingsley and Nastassja Kinski, producer has skimped on the essential – screenwriter. Instead he has disastrously allowed director Arthur Joffe, obviously not yet at ease with an elaborate full-length narrative, to develop his own original story idea.
Tale concerns a fabulously wealthy Arab prince who kidnaps a beautiful young New York girl and has her brought to his desert palace, where she joins his harem.
As played by Kingsley, the unscrupulous potentate turns out to be a hypersentive aesthete, trapped by tradition to maintain, for appearances’ sake at least, a way of life he doesn’t believe in.
The film is visually ravishing, often happily distracting the viewer from the emptiness of the script and the exasperating indigence of the main characters.