The scene of the action is Cordoba in Andalusia in the twelfth century; Moorish Spain; a mixed culture under Islamic rule consisting of Moors, Christians, Jews, and “Gypsies”, the largest and most active admixture in the film. The protagonist of the film is the philosopher Ibn Ruschd. He manages the court library and is also the teacher of the Caliph's son. Ibn Ruschd is an historical figure: he was a kind of Islamic pioneer of the Enlightenment who ascribed human reason no less a role than belief in divine revelation. His writings were also widely read in Christian mediaeval times, when he was known, by the Latin name of Averroes, as a commentator on the work of Aristotle.
The Caliph of Cordoba has two sons; the older of the two leans towards philosophy, thought and science, while the other, a light-hearted fellow, towards dance, but also verse and poetry. There is a third figure between these two sons, the Christian student Josef. He has come to Cordoba to study with Ibn Ruschd. The student’s father has translated Ibn Ruschd’s writings into French, and has been burnt at the stake as a heretic for doing so. This scene kicks off the film; the public burning of a cosmopolitan Christian by fundamentalist Christians. This breaks the heart of the burnt man’s wife, and she dies; his son goes to Spain, in search of the “cause” for his father’s murder and in order to study with him.
I am not in favour of “heaping on scorn and contempt”... I am more for music and other Gypsy pleasures... for mixing until the unmixers can no longer keep up... the translators of Ibn Ruschd need not have burnt in every generation...