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Saadia

Saadia(1954)

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FULL SYNOPSIS

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French-educated Moroccan Prince Si Lahssen visits a clinic in the small village of Anahout, where his friend Henrik, a French doctor, is struggling to bring Western medicine to the superstitious desert people. Henrik accompanies the prince to another village during tax collection, and Si Lahssen urges his people to forsake their belief in sorcery and avail themselves of the doctor's scientific approach to healing. A man named Moha beseeches Henrik to help his ailing daughter Saadia, but the others warn him that the young woman has the evil eye and will bring misfortune to him as she has to others. At Moha's house, Saadia refuses to allow Henrik to see her body, until Si Lahssen orders her to submit to an examination. Henrik diagnoses acute appendicitis, requiring immediate surgery. As the townspeople watch from a distance, Henrik performs the operation successfully, although at one point he appears to freeze in fear. Meanwhile, the sorceress Fatima uses an effigy of Saadia in a black magic ritual, invoking a demon to send the girl back to her. At the conclusion of her spell, Fatima becomes possessed by the demon and falls into an ecstatic trance. Later, Si Lahssen asks Henrik about his hesitation during the operation, saying he has long suspected that Henrik had a tragedy in his past. Henrik reluctantly reveals that he served in the Resistance while stationed in Algiers and used to parachute into occupied France to blow up enemy targets. His liaison in France was a young woman named Suzanne, to whom he became engaged. Henrik explains that he was unable to save Suzanne when she was wounded during an escape, and admits that he is still haunted by the experience. Late that night, Fatima appears in Saadia's room and threatens to harm her and Henrik if Saadia does not return to her. When Henrik arrives to examine his patient, the possessive Fatima listens with satisfaction as Moha describes how all of Saadia's suitors met tragic ends. Henrik quickly intuits Fatima's designs on the young woman, and announces that he is taking Saadia to Anahout to assist him in the clinic. Saadia seizes the opportunity to get away from Fatima, and they depart the following day. In Anahout, Si Lahssen takes Saadia to see the holy man, Khadir, who says that Saadia's destiny can be changed by a man who is strong enough to defeat the powers that are attacking her. Meanwhile, Fatima continues her witchcraft, and a bubonic plague epidemic soon ravages Anahout. The situation grows worse when a plane carrying vaccine serum from Paris crashes in Spanish Infi and the cargo is stolen by the mercenary Ait-Rhatim tribe, which is led by the ruthless Bou Rezza, enemy of the people of Anahout. Saadia rides into Spanish Infi and tracks the Ait-Rhatim to their hideout in the barren mountain country. She demands to see Bou Rezza and allows the lecherous outlaw to kiss her. When he kneels to pray, Saadia stabs him, then takes the vaccine and flees, with the Ait-Rhatim in pursuit. The exhausted, wounded Saadia returns to Anahout, and Si Lahssen moves her into his home. The plague is contained, and Saadia and Henrik are proclaimed heroes and honored with a parade. One day, Khadir enters a room in Si Lahssen's house and discovers numerous paintings of Saadia, but the prince, aware that Henrik has fallen in love with Saadia, instructs him to say nothing of what he has seen. A distraught Saadia later tells Khadir that she has found Fatima's effigy of her in her room, adding that she fears for Henrik, whose picture was stolen by the sorceress. Saadia confesses that despite her great respect for the doctor, she is in love with Si Lahssen. One day, Saadia is hunting when she is spotted by members of the Ait-Rhatim tribe. She meets up with Si Lahssen and Henrik, who are on a short journey, just as the Ait-Rhatim begin to attack. Si Lahssen and his men seek shelter in a cave and exchange gunfire with the Ait-Rhatim, and before retreating, the outlaws threaten to return in the morning and kill them all if Saadia is not turned over to them. Saadia starts to surrender, and when Si Lahssen runs out to stop her, he is shot and badly injured. That night, Si Lahssen confesses his love for Saadia in his delirium, as Henrik looks on broken-hearted. The following morning, the Ait-Rhatim launch a savage attack, which ends with the arrival of troops from the nearby military post. The prince's condition declines, despite Henrik's efforts, and the people prepare to burn Fatima at the stake. Khadir pleads with Fatima to remove the spell, but she insists that both Si Lahssen and Henrik will die. Hoping to counteract Fatima's spell with the forces of goodness, Khadir leads the people in prayer for Si Lahssen. Henrik urges his friend to fight for his life, and gives his blessing to Si Lahssen's union with Saadia. The prince recovers, and amid great celebration, he and Saadia are married. As they watch the festivities, Henrik tells Khadir that he has "recovered from the past," and plans to devote the rest of his life to his work in Morocco.