The Sheik tells a story of what we now call Stockholm syndrome: the Arab sheik of the title kidnaps a patrician, independent-minded European woman, keeping her in captivity until he can force her to fall in love with him. In keeping with contemporaneous gender politics, his scheme actually works… But soon the sheik soon finds himself protecting his proto-Patty Hearst from bandits who have the same regressive views of women as he has.
In order to truly understand this film, one must understand the nature of its male lead and deuteragonist, Valentino’s titular sheik. So I’ll begin this piece with a revelation made at the end of the film that technically qualifies as a spoiler. I’ll reveal it after the jump on the off-chance that you actually care about spoilers for a fairly boring silent romance from 1921.
Alternatively, just watch the film yourself.