The Sheltering Sky (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Sheltering Sky
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Produced by Jeremy Thomas
Screenplay by Mark Peploe
Bernardo Bertolucci
Based on The Sheltering Sky
by Paul Bowles
Starring Debra Winger
John Malkovich
Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto
Cinematography Vittorio Storaro
Edited by Gabriella Cristiani
Distributed by Warner Bros.
(Time Warner)
Release dates
14 December 1990
Running time
138 minutes
Country Italy
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $25,000,000
Box office $2,075,084

The Sheltering Sky is a 1990 British-Italian drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich. The film is based on the 1949 novel by Paul Bowles (who narrates the film and appears in a cameo role) about a couple who journey to northern Africa in the hopes of rekindling their marriage but soon fall prey to the dangers that surround them.


Three Americans from New York arrive in Tangier in 1947. Port Moresby (John Malkovich) and his wife Kit (Debra Winger) are accompanied by their friend George Tunner (Campbell Scott) on a trip that will take them deep into the Sahara Desert. Tunner observes, "We're probably the first tourists they've had since the war" to which Kit replies, "We're not tourists. We're travelers." While Tunner plans to return home in a few weeks, Port and Kit plan on staying for a year or two.

While awaiting transport to a hotel, the group meets the Lyles – Mrs. Lyle (Jill Bennett), a travel writer and her son Eric (Timothy Spall). After arriving at the hotel, Port invites Kit to accompany him for a walk of the city. After she refuses and rebuffs his romantic advances, Port angrily leaves. During his walk he meets a prostitute (Amina Annabi). The two have sex and the prostitute attempts to steal his wallet. Port quickly leaves and is chased by a mob.

The next morning Tunner arrives at Kit's room to take her shopping. Not wanting Tunner to know that Port stayed out all night, she removes the covers from his bed to make it appear that he slept there. As Kit and Tunner are preparing to leave, a disheveled Port arrives. Seeing his bed, he assumes that Tunner spent the night with Kit.

Port and Kit once again encounter the Lyles and are offered a ride in their car to their next destination but are informed that there is no room for Tunner. Port accepts the ride with the Lyles while Kit takes the train with Tunner. Tunner and Kit awake the next morning in Kit's room after a drunken tryst.

Suspicious of Kit's relationship with Tunner, Port arranges for Eric Lyle to provide Tunner with transportation to Messad on the pretext that Port and Kit will meet him later. Eric agrees but also steals Port's passport.

In Bounoura, Port discovers his passport missing. Even after being informed by local officials that the passport can be recovered in Messad, Port decides to proceed to El Ga'a with Kit in order to avoid a meeting with Tunner. Port then contracts typhoid and dies at a French foreign legion post leaving Kit alone deep in the Sahara.

Kit wanders in the desert until she is rescued by a caravan led by Belqassim (Eric Vu-An). After the caravan arrives at Belqassim's home, he disguises Kit as a boy and locks her in a guest house. Although held captive, Kit welcomes Belqassim's advances and the two begin an affair. Kit is soon discovered by Belqassim's wives who order her to leave. Kit finds herself disoriented in the local marketplace and is found in a hospital by staff of the American embassy. She is transported back to Tangier where she began her journey and is told that Tunner is waiting for her. After arriving at the hotel, Kit flees into the city before Tunner can meet her.


Filming locations[edit]

The film was shot in Morocco, in Tangier, Ouarzazate, Erfoud and Tamnougalt (although most of the locations named in the film are in present day Algeria.)


The soundtrack, composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and the LAFCA Award for Best Music.

Critical reception[edit]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 50 percent of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 24 reviews despite the film being a financial flop.[1] Among those praising the film was New York Times film critic Vincent Canby, who described it as a "long, beautifully modulated cry of despair."[2] In 1998, Paul Bowles wrote a new preface to the novel in which he stated "the less said about the film now, the better."[3]





  1. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes - The Sheltering Sky". Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent (12 December 1990). "The Sheltering Sky - New York Times Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Bowles, Paul (1998). The Sheltering Sky. The Ecco Press. p. 5. 


External links[edit]