Personal Shopper: a film set between Paris and Oman

Filmmakers are shooting across Oman, which is becoming a filming destination for international productions. This trend has been developing for a few years now, such is the case of “Personal Shopper” (2016), the winner for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival that same year. The film took place between Paris and Oman, specifically, in the locations of Nizwa and Bahla known for their stunning mountain scenery.  

“Personal Shopper” is an English-language French production, directed by acclaimed director Olivier Assayas, who has an extensive and quite interesting filmography, and is the son of renowned French film screenwriter Jacques Rémy. This is a psychological thriller starring Twilight star Kristen Stewart as Maureen, a Parisian celebrity personal shopper named Kyra. The film’s plot revolves around the spiritual connection between the protagonist and her deceased twin brother.  

The film is constantly traversed by the contrast between the materialistic and superficial world and the spiritual world. For this, the director resorts to visual language, for example, such as Maureen’s lighting and costumes. But the main resource is the contrast between Paris, where Maureen works for a narcissistic celebrity, and Oman, where her boyfriend works in the mountains.   

Director Assayas wanted to portray the sacredness of the mountains of Oman. Nizwa and Bahla, two cities of striking beauty, were chosen to shoot the final scenes. Nizwa, today perhaps the most touristic site, is considered the pearl of Oman because of its historical fortresses and mountainous landscape. It is also a city that is known for welcoming tourists with friendliness and friendliness.   

Nizwa was for more than a thousand years the capital of Oman. A reflection of that golden age is its fort, which was built over 12 years by order of Sultan Bin Saif Al Yaruba. It was completed in the mid-17th century and renovated again in the 1990s, hence its impeccable appearance. This imposing ochre-colored building, the oldest in Oman, is the emblem of the city. 

Behind the walls of this ancient fortress lies a vast city enveloped in authentic labyrinths. The most characteristic feature is its huge circular tower 30 meters high and 36 meters in diameter, visible from anywhere in the city. If you climb to the top you can see a panoramic view of Nizwa. Looking up, what catches the eye are the immense date palm plantations that spread out in the surrounding area. A little further away, some of the highest mountains in Oman: the Al Hajar, among which the Jebel Shams stand out.  

The view of Nizwa is complemented by the Omanis, dressed in their pristine white dishdashas. However, due to the movement of all kinds of people from many different cultures, Nizwa acquired an unparalleled wealth: education, religion, commerce, and the arts developed here more than anywhere else.   

Other scenes from “Personal Shopper” were shot in the mountainous area of Bahla. In this city, people are believed to have extra-sensory experiences as it is a place charged with energy and extraterrestrial beings living together in the fortresses. Bahla is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In addition to traditional beliefs, architecture is a unique fusion of tradition and modernity. Bahla also stands out for the sandy landscape, the mountains, and the sea. But in addition to the geographical features, the director was mainly interested in the color palette of the city. Everything is white, from the houses to the landscape.  

Both Nizwa and Bahla play a fundamental role in “Personal Shopper”. First of all, the director chose the mountains as a symbol of the sacred, which is directly linked to the protagonist’s spiritual quest. In the case of Bahla, it is a city known for its powerful energy. The director felt it was essential to mark the difference between the mundane and superficial of Maureen’s daily life in Paris and the transcendental, represented by these Omani cities.  

Finally, there is the work on color. While in the first scene, in which we see Maureen alone and saddened by the passing of her twin brother, the colors are dark and gloomy, and the final sequence in Oman is resplendent. This scene is bathed in a very white desert light, a way of marking the end of her mourning and the closing of her wounds.  Symbolically, it represents the protagonist’s path to the light. Nizwa and Bahla’s aesthetics help to create this clear atmosphere. Finally, this is accompanied by the costumes as well. Just as we see Maureen wearing black at the beginning, in Oman she wears very white tones, as do the inhabitants who complete the Omani landscape. 

There is no doubt that the strong point of “Personal Shopper” is the cinematography. Although there were only a few scenes in this film, the presence of Oman has shown why the filmmakers choose this country. The sites, as diverse as they are unique, reflect the rich past and promising future of Oman. 

More details about “Personal Shopper” on IMDb.

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