On a brief moment in "Finye" (Souleymane Cissé, Mali 1983)

There's one shot reverse shot sequence in Souleymane Cissé's "Finye" that stayed with me. The two main characters, lovers Bah and Batrou, are having a bath together. Though Cissé denies us a total view of the situation, he unambiguously establishes the spatial axis of their encounter at the outset of the scene, with her on the right and him on the left-hand side. A close-up of her naked left breast - however classically posited as the object of his gaze, at the other end of a straightforward eyeline match - then unsettles something in the order of things.

First there is a cut back to the beholder,

then we see his stretched-out hand fondling hers halfway between each other, but here the axis has already been breached: his (lighter-skinned) hand extends from the right, where she used to be:

The next cut makes this breach noticeable, when her face is shown on the left (turning to the right), her former position vis-à-vis the camera reversed as if in a mirror:

What follows confounds the spatial logic even further: a reverse shot of his face, still gazing rightward, his position the same as before.

The fleeting image of their hands seems to inaugurate an altogether new space, a true con-figuration of lovers unbound from the exacting geometry of the preceding shot reverse shot sequence. Or so I tell myself, in an attempt to explain away this beautifully mysterious, and mysteriously beautiful, everyday encounter.

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