Culture, Film review, Films, Russia

I won’t come back (Я Не Вернюсь) – A fable on screen

I recently came across a Russian film called I won’t come back, or Я Не Вернюсь (Ya ne vernus) in Russian. It took a while to decide which one to watch, from a list of films by the likes of Pedro Almodóvar and Michael Haneke. And I chose to watch the film by an unknown Estonian director Ilmar Raag. But after watching it, I can say the much-cliched phrase that you’ve only failed when you stopped trying. Failing, in this context, is not knowing the world of the parallel cinema, not knowing about a different world away from glitzy Hollywood and Bollywood, not witnessing life in another part of the world so less represented in the media. I won’t come back is a powerful film about two orphans fighting their corner in the world and their desperate search for love. The harsh realities of life, laced with short tales providing a poetic, magical, getaway from the sombre undertone of the storyline, and a brilliant cinematography spanning the vast expanse of the Russian countryside to the Altai mountains in Kazakhstan — the result of the eclectic mix is unforgettable. And above all, I won’t come back portrays career defining performances by Polina Pushkaruk and young Vika Lobacheva.

Russian trailer for the film
(Source: YouTube)

Polina portrays Anya, who grew up in an orphanage, and she becomes a lecturer in an university. There, she falls in love with a professor, but he has a family with children. One day she was accused of hiding drugs she didn’t know about, and she escapes the arrest. To avoid being taken in custody, Anya goes to an orphanage claiming she’s fifteen, and there she meets Kristine, a thirteen-year-old girl, who is bullied by other inmates. Anya defends her, and Kristine began to trust Anya. When Kristine tells Anya that she knows a secret way out, Anya runs away one day, only to find Kristine following her, pleading to take her to her grandma in Kazakhstan. Thus begins the voyage to Kazakhstan, with very little money between them. They had to hitchhike. On the way, Anya receives a call from Andrey, that all charges against her were dropped and she should come back to the uni. Thus begins the clash between the two characters, both desperate to find a tie, a sense of belonging and being loved — Anya, in her lover and Kristine, in her grandma. Anya tries to send Kristine to Kazakhstan in a train but fails. Through various dramatic sequences, it emerges that these two girls needed each other, more than they agreed to admit. But when Kristine said to Anya, she refused to admit it, resulting in Kristine running away and hitchhiking alone in a car leaving Anya behind. After a day of searching for her, Anya finds her alone, walking along the snow covered road in the upcoming winter. Anya finally realises how much she loved Kristine and decided to travel to Kazakhstan. Then in a sudden twist of fate, as they waited for a car, a drunk driver skids and hits the shed where Kristine was resting, killing her instantly. Anya in her grief realised that she’d become an orphan again, and lost the only human being who loved her unconditionally. The film then shows resolute Anya telling Andrey that she’s not coming back, and finally reaches the village in the Altai mountains. Kristine’ grandmother mistakes Anya to be Kristine, and Anya carried on with the lie, to finally find a place to call home.

Ya ne vernus a magical film, despite its dark and sad undertone. A number of scenes were truly emotional, and Polina and Vika made those instances realistic as though the tension between them was palpable. Instances worth specific mention are the time when Anya leaves a howling Kristine in the cemetery petrified of the wolves, or when Kristine kept asking Anya to admit she loved her but Anya kept refusing. Perhaps the most heart-rending scene was when Kristine suddenly dies. With the two girls finally agreeing to go to Kazakhstan, and the viewers expecting a journey to Kristine’a grandmother for a happily ever after, the suddenness of her death left us speechless. Perhaps Anya’s grief in the film moved at a faster pace than the viewers realising that Kristine, the eccentric and dreamy teenager is actually dead. No miracle is happening, Anya won’t be taking her to a farm where Vika would be treated and recover.

Yet, despite the dreary backdrop throughout the film, it also highlights the strength of a relationship. The mythical interjections in the film, mostly by the dreamy Kristine, gave the film a fantastic aura. These short intervals of fantasy take the viewers’ attention away from the harsh reality of the central theme. Scenes like Kristine introducing herself to Anya telling there are an eagle and a dog inside her who talk to her all the time, or that she had wings but they were broken and she couldn’t fly anymore because God only gives you wings once. We’ll remember Kristine pouring soda on the road so the road sends them a lift, and that of the swan and the girl kept us hoping that there is something positive happening to these girls. We see the relationship between Anya and Kristine evolve with a background of the out and about places in Russia, captured by the fabulous cinematography — from a busy city to the Altai mountains, from a dark, snow-laden cemetery at night, to busy service stations. The film presented slices of Russian life and culture through various imageries, perfectly blended into the storyline, such as the tale of the swan, as they walked past a deserted lake. As much as the unforgettable character portrayals of Polina Pushkaruk and Vika Lobacheva, the cinematography by Tuomo Hutri was a treat.

“There was a girl in the orphanage. One day she ran away from everyone. She came across a lake and saw a swan. She asked the swan to take her away. So the swan picked her up in his beak and flew away. The swan put the girl in his house. But he went away to see his kids and the girl saw him less and less. One day the girl jumped in the water. But she didn’t drown and turned into a fish. The swan came back and couldn’t see the girl. He began to cry. The fish-girl could see the swan but she couldn’t speak to him. From that day, the fish would come up to the surface every day and see her swan cry”

However, it’s the the relationship between the characters of Anya and Kristine — the turmoils and their love, is the tour de force in Ya ne vernus. Anya’s character is shown as an intelligent young woman, finding her place in the world putting the life in the orphanage behind her. However, as much as she appeared confident in professional life, she seemed helplessly desperate in her personal life. She was looking for stability throughout the film, and that’s why knowing that she had no hope of getting Andrey leave his family for her, Anya clung on to him. Her only hope, still, was to stay in the city she was living and pray that Andrey leaves his wife and family one day. Until then, at least she can still be in an affair with him. Kristine, on the other side, had nothing in the city. She has no relatives, she’s bullied by all the inmates of the orphanage. All she had was a small tin box, inside which was a crumpled photo with an address of a remote village in Kazakhstan, where her grandma lived. Living in a shelter knowing that she had a living relative made her flee one shelter to another until she met Anya who, unlike others, was ready to stand up to anyone harassing Kristine. Kristine saw her like a big sister, she felt loved and cared for. And she felt secure. But her ultimate goal was to reach Chemolgan, the village in Kazakhstan where her grandma lived. It appeared as though one of these girls will have to make a sacrifice or will be separated forever. If Anya goes to Kazakhstan, she’ll never see Andrey again, and if she went back to the city, Kristine will not see her Grandma. It was as if the destiny was playing a cruel roulette with their fate, where whichever path they chose, they will lose one significant person in their life. The director Ilmar Raag depicted through some unforgettable scenes how Anya opened up her feelings towards Kristine, and that the feeling she felt towards Andrey was slowly fading away.

Polina Pushkaruk was phenomenal in portraying the role of Anya but it’s the young Vika Lobacheva who stole the heart away of the viewers. She made the character of dreamy and feisty Kristine very real to the audience. It was amazing acting by a young actor and I wonder why she wasn’t nominated for the best young actors. I was surprised to find out later that Vika Lobacheva actually spent a large part of her childhood in social care. Ya ne vernus is an exceptional film, magically woven by talented Ilmar Raag and supported by the lead actors Polina and Vika. Adding the cinematography featuring the vast expanse of the Russian countryside, it made I won’t come back one of the phenomenal films I’ve watched recently. Many would argue that this may be classed as a road movie, but I’d strongly oppose that notion. It’s true that a large part of the film is about the journey for the two women towards Kazakhstan, but it’s much more than a road movie — it’s a tale about finding home and love. To me, it was a fable, a string of magical moments joined together to a bleak storyline. I’m glad that I made the choice to watch Я Не Вернюсь (Ya ne vernus) over the other films I was tempted by, or else I would have missed this rare gem. It was a lesson, that sometimes it’s worth following a hunch, and not just for choosing which films to watch.

Film review, media

Watching Nightcrawler: A wake-up call on media morality

Film poster

Poster for the film
Source: Den of geek

Films are a luxury these days, compared to the old times when they were a commodity. Writing a film review is easy now than it has ever been, as we cherish things that have become a rarity, and moreover, if I tried to write a film review when I watched more than one film a day, there wouldn’t have been enough hours in a day. After probably six months since watching a film, during the Christmas period, I watched Gnomeo and Juliet, and De rouille et d’os of Jacques Audiard. Then this weekend my eyes suddenly fell on a DVD while doing the grocery shopping in Morrisons. The blurb on the jacket suggested a gripping story of a freelance cameraman getting sucked into the underbelly of the LA criminal world. It had a promise of a crime thriller where the amateur cameraman uncovered the vicious criminal gangs. He did, but Nightcrawler was by no means a Hollywood good vs evil story. It is a far darker and sinister storyline that probably broke many stereotypes about Hollywood films produced over the years. It was an uncomfortable film to watch, and the effect is still lingering as I type these words.

Nightcrawler was released in 2014 so there is no spoiler alert here. And just reading these words won’t create the effect the film did. In short, Lou Bloom lives a destitute life in downtown LA, living off odd jobs but his hunger to achieve more, drives him to desperately start looking for newer means. One night as he was turned down a job where he sold stolen material, he drove past an accident scene and found a freelance cameraman filming the scene. Lou learns that by becoming a stringer — a freelance cameraman, he could earn easy cash. He buys a camcorder and a police radio scanner. After a few failed attempts, Lou captures someone shot in the neck and sells the footage to a news channel. There he meets Nina, the news editor. Her penchant for serving the story people want to see, mainly concerning affluent white families as victims in central LA neighbourhood areas gave Lou a clear idea what she’s looking for. As Lou starts to find success, his inner drive to do more, and Nina’s unrelenting support violating ethical boundaries of news reporting makes Lou take more risks, become more dangerous and desperate. He hires an assistant, and soon Lou realised that Nina is as desperate for his videos as he is for achieving something in his life. The film climaxes as they reach the scene of a shooting that would become breaking news, Lou hides the part of the tape showing the gunmen so he could film them getting caught another time, in another neighbourhood. After a shootout, one gunman escapes who is later killed by police after a chase that Lou and his assistant catch live, and Lou manages to trick his assistant in believing the gunman was dead. He gets shot and the gunman faces Lou, filming death of his assistant before police shot the gunman. Police later interrogate Lou but couldn’t prove that he hid the information. On the last scene, he’s seen to be running a new business hiring apprentices.

I remember watching Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky and over the years, I thought he was Hollywood’s male version of Meg Ryan, having a face that never ages. Paired with the looks, he has a boyish voice that never developed into a baritone, like Tobey MaGuire’s. From that aspect, it was difficult to imagine Jake in a role that is so dark, and creepy. But at the end of the film, I was left wondering whether I’ve just watched the best career performance of Jake. He is a tour de force in Nightcrawler, it is not easy to watch, but that relentlessly uncomfortable feeling was Jake’s success. He lived and breathed in that character, emanating a sense of menace. Lou’s mannerisms, especially his business management parlance in almost every possible situation, paired with his obsessive expressions while covering the crime or accident scenes were uncanny, to say the least, and often monstrous. As he soullessly moved towards achieving one reckless feat to the next, his character shows no compassion or remorse for the victims. To him, they were just rungs of the ladder that will take him high up the corporate echelon he so painstakingly prepared himself for but was never allowed a break. He makes you squirm in disgust and enraged in hate. In the film, Jake looked almost emaciated, his bare arms uncharacteristically thin. I found out later that he lived on a diet of kale chips to lose all the weight. This brings to mind another virtuoso performances by Adrien Brody in The Pianist and Christian Bale in The Fighter, where the actors went to great lengths to mould their physique into the character they were portraying. Jake’s gaunt face, unassuming stature made him blend into the background of the film that all his expressions gained a new dimension. Nightcrawler is all about the superlative performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, and it is definitely worth watching just to watch him.

Yet, Nightcrawler is not just about Jake’s performance, it has plenty more to offer. The script is superb. It’s sleek, at times the suspense was too gripping to handle. And that is paired with fantastic night cinematography of LA, especially the long shots overlooking the city, or the crossroads. The film revolved around three central characters, and Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed played their part brilliantly to let Lou Bloom cast his dark spell on the viewers’ minds. Although a film is remembered by the actors’ performances, it’s the less praised behind the scenes work that makes the film successful. For Nightcrawler, this would be the scriptwriter and the director, for taking up a challenging subject. The film could be classified as Noir, with Jake Gyllenhaal as an anti-hero. It did not try to make him appear psychotic, and most of the Hollywood anti-heroes turn up, nor he dies in the end, nor he finds a sudden sense of morality and becomes the good guy in the end. Lou Bloom is a cutthroat optimist, he doesn’t let anything come between him and his success, he is desperate, and in the end, it shows that he gets away with all his unethical demeanour. A negative character not being punished at the end of the story — where does this stand on good vs evil? A non-ideal end made Lou Bloom more realistic, and thus more frightening. The other stereotype that was broken was the relationship between Lou Bloom and Nina. Hollywood hardly shows older women against younger men, unless it was like The Graduate, where the older female seduces the young actor. In Nightcrawler, Lou blackmailed Nina to get her to sleep with him. There is no love blossoming in there air, but just hard transactional relationship — Lou helps Nina keep her job, and he wanted sex in return. There are certain loopholes in the film that might interest the people who like finding gaffes, such as Lou getting away with hiding footage of the shootout from police, and CCTV evidence would easily have proved that he traced the killers and not the other way around. Also, confiscating his laptop would have shown that he searched for the car number plate. Yet, Nightcrawler will be remembered for the unforgettable acting by Jake Gyllenhaal, not the minor gaps in the storyline.

Finally, like moral of a fable comes a moment when you analyse a film with the present context and decide whether the film succeeds in conveying any message to its viewers that are relevant to our society. From this aspect, I’d hail Nightcrawler to have addressed one of the biggest perils of our society — of warped, directed and suggestive media reporting. Funnily enough, I remembered the Family Guy episode where Peter Griffin steals many Nielsen boxes and bargains with news channels how he wanted all the programmes altered. In reality, Nightcrawler is a stark reminder of the way media manipulates the truth, in order to make news sensational. Rene Russo in Nina personifies the uncouth, greedy media houses, where their viewership is fuelled by panic mongering and misinformation. The unfortunate events of Brexit and Donald Trump victory highlight the role right-wing media played in those two cases. In the case of Brexit, we saw Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express wage a hate campaign against the migrants in the UK and against EU governance. The failure of the Leave campaign to deliver any of the promises only outlined the vacuous media bias towards Leave. They worked on people’s fear, and distrust and created an atmosphere of animosity within the country that has split the country for the foreseeable future. The same has happened in the USA as well, and the consequences much grave than Brexit. The willingness to go any lengths to twist the reality is very prominent in Nightcrawler. Although a sane mind doubts whether a news channel could lower themselves that low just to with some TRP, a present appreciation of the current situation only corroborates the message conveyed in the film. It should serve as a wake-up call to the viewers — or the customers of the media that unless the public collectively rejects the sensationalist media reporting, they will resort to more dangerous means, just as Lou Bloom did in the film, and it could do irreparable damage to the fabric of our society.

The thought that, what we watched in Nightcrawler is happening every single day at every single corner of the world, fills the viewer with an uncomfortable feeling. And that is the success of the film — the uneasiness, the queasy feeling that you get in your mouth after the film is over. Nightcrawler will be one of those films that I will be desperate to watch it again, but will never watch it ever, for the unpalatable truths that film makes us face, and we cannot just eject the disc and think — “It’s only a film”!

Deux jours une nuit, Film review

Deux Jours, Une Nuit — Film review and reflections to the working class society in western Europe

Before our daughter was born last year, I was reading an article on a number of films that won special accolades at Cannes Film Festival in 2014, and two of them I could particularly remember — Leviathan from Russia and Deux jours, une nuit from Belgium. Deux jours, une nuit particularly drew my attention due to Marion Cotillard, who is undoubtedly one of the most prolific French actors of our times, along with Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris. I tried to watch the film around that time and could not find any source. Finally in 2015 July, I found a copy in the world cinema section at the HMV shop. Needless to say, I snatched it within seconds. On one August Friday night, I decided to watch the film, sacrificing a much precious night’s sleep, and this has changed my perception of western Europe as well as incited a moment to reflect on the priorities of life.

Poster for the film

Poster for the film

First a short synopsis of the film itself, which one can find in Wikipedia or IMDb. Marion brilliantly portrays Sandra Bya, a mother of two children, working in a factory. She recently suffered from depression and was off work, and just recovered to be back to work soon. During Sandra’s absence her workload is shared by other sixteen workers with some overtime. The owner M. Dumont presented a dilemma to these sixteen workers — they could either continue to work extra and get a €1000 bonus whilst Sandra loses her job, or when Sandra is back, all will go back to regular shift and they don’t get any bonus. The story starts when Sandra gets the news that a vote took place on Friday, in an open forum and under influence of the foreman, who is not in favour of Sandra getting her job back. She meets the owner on Friday afternoon and the owner assures a repeat vote on next Monday, which would be a secret one, and if the majority voted for Sandra to stay foregoing their bonus, he will keep her on. Most part of the film then revolves around next 60 hours as Sandra personally attempts to meet all sixteen co-workers to vote for her to stay, and their decisions. Some felt guilty and compassionate immediately and assured they will vote Sandra to stay, the rest apologised for numerous personal reasons. Towards the end, with a few unsure ones, Sandra goes to work on Monday and the result comes out as a tie. The owner offered to keep her job although a tie meant she has not had the majority, but on condition that one of the trainees will have to be laid off later on. Sandra declined to offer, was bid adieu by all her colleagues who voted for her, and comes out of the factory brimming with her confidence, that she lost through her illness, and Sandra calls Manu to say <<Nous avons bien battu>> or we put up a great fight.

The film deserves special kudos for Dardenne brothers for deciding to make a film on disability and workplace discrimination, which are very pertinent issues around Europe. Marion Cotillard is flawless in her characterisation of Sandra, with all her vulnerabilities, doubts, hesitations and portrayal of a person with depression — on the brink of foregoing all the progress made by medication and being away from stresses at work. For most of the film where Sandra is shown to have a dejected, resigned demeanour, with her tired face and wry smile, the film brilliantly showed flashes of her personality, the part of Sandra we didn’t get to see in the film. The supporting cast were eclectically chosen and they all played their part very well — especially Manu as her loving husband trying to give her confidence whilst looking after the children and taking Sandra to all her colleagues when he had time off. The make up and costume is also worth accolades — Sandra’s ashened face and attires of a working class woman made her characters very real. It stands to reason why this Belgian/Italian production has won a 15min standing ovation in Cannes and set Marion Cotillard for her second nomination for the best actress role. Notwithstanding the fact that Deux jours, une nuit is an outstanding film, it struck a chord in my mind for two other reasons.

First reason was location, although it was partially flawed. Since I started to learn French in 2006, or even before that, I was fascinated by French cinema. Old and new, I have watched quite a few films before Deux jours…; however, there was one big change since I watched the last French film. I visited France for the first time in February this year, and then made three subsequent trips of which, the last one was a week long. So, to some extent, I could now relate some of the facts to my own experience, and France as seen in French films was not an utopia anymore, it’s something real and part of my life. Watching Deux jours… created the same sensation as would have done by a film about Calcutta, or London. And here is the flaw I mentioned before. Deux jours, une nuit is a Belgian-Italian co-production and shot in Belgium, so I was partially misled thinking I was watching France, whilst it was actually Belgium. Nevertheless, I can’t say that my assumptions and imageries were entirely untrue either, as I also went to Belgium twice this year. As a result, I could see that the surroundings on the film could well be related back to my memories in Belgium. Little insignificant moments, like seeing how it feels driving along the other side of the road, the sauce piquante offered with pizza, houses with orange tiled roof, Buses with ticket machines to scan — they all make the film appear much more personal, as if I was there, with Sandra, following her with a camera.

The second but most significant factor why I found Deux jours… phenomenal, is its purpose — the storyline. It’s not an epic drama, nor an action packed thriller, nor a portrayal of a larger than life person on screen…it’s a story of a woman, who could be your or my neighbour, or even, the story of ourselves. The social angle of the film made a large faction of the crowd to identify themselves or someone they knew of, in the situation. The workplace discrimination for disabled or people with depression, the difficulty of re-engaging someone back after a long-term sickness, small industries turning employees one against another in order to stay afloat in this age of fierce competition, keeping employees constantly under threat of being blacklisted — all such instances are seen or heard of in everyone’s life. For some it’s just a harsh reality of life we live in. This is the story of western Europe’s working class, for whom it’s a struggle for existence every day, a constant battleground to find one’s feet. As the film progressed, the viewers can see the convoluted schemes of the management, leaving the choice to the employees, if they want Sandra back, but creating fear saying if Sandra is back, someone else might be fired. The struggle for existence is picturised in many fights one encounters in the film — couples fighting each other, employees fighting one another on the issue of keeping Sandra, Sandra fighting her inner evils of giving it all in in the face of despair — fights that characterises the struggles one has to go through for people on the breadline. Not that those eight people, who voted against Sandra, had anything against her, but they all are part of the mechanism, where one can’t afford to go against the tide. In the minimum wage, they still want to make ends meet or live the consumerist dream — house, car, clothes, renovations, holidays — a €1000 was worth much more than sparing a thought about a struggling employee. Deux jours… also tried to depict a comparison between a class divide, although this could be my preconceived notions judging instances how I wanted to see them as. Those who rather wanted the bonus than keep Sandra, were better off than the ones, who offered to back her, and they would rather have the €1000 to spend on the consumerist utopia. Being in the higher rung on the social scale made them more susceptible to the demons of capitalism — to be less compassionate and more focussed on increasing their wealth. However, the vices of Europe’s working class society is best expressed by the words of the colleague of Sandra, who refused without hesitation to help her, saying “I wish you keep the job tomorrow, but if you do I will be heartbroken”. This exemplifies how people are pushed to a situation, where they have to make a choice between their own survival or someone else’s. In such desperate situations, Sandra’s taking all of her anti-depressant pills shows just so many people are stretched to their extreme limits of tolerance and so many people today are in a situation like Sandra in the film and fighting to stay adrift in the quicksand.

However, amidst all despairing struggle, there are positives to take away as well, and an optimistic ending, when Sandra, after a weekend long toil to request everyone to keep her job, actually offered one, but at the cost of one apprentice, who voted for her, and she chose to quit the job rather than let the owner try to fight one employee against another one more time. Throughout the film, there are snippets of optimism emerged in small bursts at most unexpected moments, that instil hope in the minds of the viewer that life under constant struggle and predicament still has moments of joy and happiness. Moments when Sandra, Anne and Manu drove back on Sunday night — with Sandra just back from hospital after taking the pills, Anne having broken up with her abusive partner, and Manu worried how Sandra would react if she were to lose her job next day — all three desolate souls, still managed forget all their woes and turn the Rock channel on car audio and sing along the tunes. The film also portrays the inter-relationships amongst the employees in a multicultural society, where a number of Sandra’s colleagues, with whom she hardly had any friendship, had offered to help her out by voting her, which is remarkable especially for the migrant families, who perhaps have no social security and money to send out to families abroad.

Deux jours, une nuit made me reflect on the priorities of life and how we see ourselves in this world. When we speak of Europe especially the western part of it as the vanguard of social infrastructure and most powerful and wealthy nations of the world, the working class still has the same trials and tribulations as anywhere else in the world. Although the hardship is comparative between working class of a first world to a third world country, and perhaps life of a first world working class person, as portrayed in this film would be a life to dream for by the a third world worker — it only proves that life in western Europe is not bed of roses and people there too, strife every day. Also, when people from middle class background, like myself, worry about financial situations, this film blows apart that mindset, where people worry about a life that billions would die for. Deux jours, une nuit again emphasises the importance on being humble to the means of life one has and not snigger at working class people as being lazy and defeatist.

Then, thinking about the film again, after the upsurge of emotions was over, that in the end, this is a film, not documentary of people from real life. Marion Cotillard is a superstar — she must have earned Millions for the role of Sandra Bya, who lost her job for €1000. The film was screened at Cannes, with opulent film personalities gathered together from all over the world, spending millions on their French riviera retreat, whilst characters like Sandra in real life persevere every day for their existence, far away from the pomp and limelight that the film and its cast would be basking in. Deux jours, une nuit has struck a chord focussing on the working class life in Europe, bolstered by a sterling performance by Marion Cotillard; yet, outside the silver screen, the film has failed to create awareness and a form a movement to improve the lives of millions of Sandras. Their strife does not finish at 95 minutes and with a <<Manu, nous avons bien battu>>…

Poster for the film

Scene from the day of the vote

Film review, Wer wenn nicht uns

A Review on Wer, Wenn nicht Wir and a parallel into revolutionary socialism in 70s

Recreated from a Facebook post in February 2013

Yesterday watched a film, “Wer, wenn nicht wir”(who, if not us) that focussed on the earlier years of the Baader-Meinhof gang. Looking up on the net about their uprising and the end, it reminds me of a very similar movement much closer at home, the naxalite movement and specially of a book by Subhas Basu “Gol Ruti, Neel Chand” (Round bread and blue moon) that depicted how the fraction distanced themselves from the Communist party and right up to their disillusionment and dissolution. Just branding similar movements as terrorist activities, as some sites do, will be a gross simplification and misrepresentation of the world history of the time. One cannot condone the violence they started, and replace the losses the families suffered, but these are the tales of a lost youth, utterly brilliant and motivated – they were philosophers, writers, artists, journalists – yet lost in the tumultuous period the world was going through, and were fighting an enemy they couldn’t have overthrown, for it didn’t really exist. Forty years on since Vietnam, the youth movement calmed down a lot, the only violence you see is either by right-wing fundamentalists or state-sanctioned “peace-keeping missions” (or domestic); the terms Fascist and Capitalist aren’t synonymous any more as aren’t Socialist and Left-wing. Perhaps we are converging towards a de-polarised world that will see a harmonious coexistence of both theories, and will benefit all strata of people. Making it happen within a country – quite possible. Making it happen worldwide – Not!
Film review

চাঁদের পাহাড়: চলচ্চিত্র আলোচনা

ছবিটা বেশ কিছুদিন আগে দেখা তাই মনে হয়না এরকম একটা রিভিউ কেউ কারো কাজে আসবে। তবু যখন আমার এক কলিগ বলল চাঁদের পাহাড় দেখব, মনে হলো এটা যখন সিনেমাটা দেখেছিলাম তখনই লেখা উচিত ছিল। একে এমপি তার ওপর আবার মহানায়ক, জানিনা লোকে কি বলবে। যাই হোক চাঁদের পাহাড় দেখে মনে অনেক প্রশ্ন জেগেছিল সেগুলোই এক এক করে লিখলাম।

১. আমি বিন্দুমাত্রও হোমোফোবিক নই কিন্তু সিনেমায় আলভারেজ আর শঙ্কর এমন হাত ধরাধরি, জড়াজড়ি করছিল সাবটাইটল না থাকলে ছবির থীমটা যে কি সেটা দূর্বোধ্য, মনে হচ্ছিল দুই পুরুষ প্রকৃতির মাঝে তাদের মধ্যের প্রেম উপলব্ধি করেছে।

২. কোন সিনেমা তার স্বাভাবিক ছন্দে যদি দেড় ঘন্টা লম্বা হয় তাকে টেনে হিঁচড়ে আড়াই ঘন্টা চালালে সিনেমার আকর্ষণ তেমন থাকেনা আর দর্শকদেরও মনে হতে শুরু করে কি কুক্ষণে টিকিট কেটেছিলাম। নাকি পরিচালক ভেবেছিলেন যেরকম সবাই খুঁজে খুঁজে সেই দোকানে যায় যেখানে রোল এ একটু বেশি আলু দেয়, সেরকম লোকে যদি আড়াই ঘন্টা সিনেমা না চলে বলবে ফ্লপ ?

৩. চলচ্চিত্রায়ন অসামান্য, তবে আফ্রিকা তার সমস্ত বিস্ময় এই ছবির একমাত্র পাওনা। বাকি সব বাকওয়াস।

৪. ভারত আইটির দেশ, হলিউডের অনেক সিনেমার স্পেশাল এফেক্টও এখন ভারতে হয়, তবু এই সিনেমার স্পেশাল এফেক্ট এরকম জোলো কেন বোঝা গেলনা। নাকি প্রযোজক মশাই শুটিং টিম কে আফ্রিকা পাঠিয়ে ই সব পায়সা খরচ করে ফেলেছিলেন? আগ্নেয়গিরির বিস্ফোরণ তো ষাটের দশকের মনে হচ্ছিল। এর চেয়ে তো ইদানিং অনেক বাংলা সিনেমায় অনেক ভালো স্পেশাল এফেক্ট আছে।

৫. প্যানপেনে মা আর হেঁপো বাবার অবতারণা কি কারণে দরকার হলো বোঝে গেলনা, যদিওবা মেনে নেওয়া গেল আফ্রিকা যাবার আগে শঙ্করের জীবনের কিছুটা দেখানোর জন্যে কিন্তু বাকি সময় মনে হচ্ছিল ছবি লম্বা করার খুব বিরক্তিকর পদ্ধতি।

৬. সিংহ শিকারের নতুন টেকনিক শেখা গেল. প্রথমে সিংহকে মাংস-টাংস দিয়ে লোভ দেখিয়ে ডাকতে হবে, তারপর সিংহ যখন শিরারীর দিকে তেড়ে আসবে তখন প্রানপনে উল্টো দিকে দৌড়তে হবে। যখন সিংহ প্রায় ধরে ফেলেছে তখন জেসন স্ট্যাথামের মত উড়ে গিয়ে উল্টো দিকে ঘুরে গুলি চালাতে হবে। সেই গুলি সিংহের মাথায় লাগবেই আর সে এক গুলিতেই কাবার হবে। জে.এ.হান্টার এর শিকারের গল্প মনে পরে গেল। তিনি নির্ঘাত কবরে নড়েচড়ে উঠতেন এই নতুন উপায়ের কথা শুনে। বললে হবে, আমাদের মহানায়ক বলে কথা, হান্টার তো কোন ছার।

৭. কোন কোন রহস্য যত অদৃশ্য রাখা যায় ততই রোমাঞ্চকর লাগে। এমিটিভিল হরর বা হিদেও নাকাতার রিঙ এ অপ্রাকৃত কিছু একদম শেষ অবধি দেখানো হয়নি। বিভুতিভুষনের শঙ্কর ও কিন্তু বইতে শুধু বুনিপের আওয়াজ আর তার পায়ের শব্দই শুনেছিল। ব্যাপারটাকে সিনেমাতেও সেই অবধিই সীমিত রাখলে ভালো হতো. বুনিপ বলে যা দেখানো হলো সেটা তো একটা ভুঁড়িঅলা প্যাঙ্গোলিন তার ওপর একটা ডাইনোসরের মাথা লাগানো। এমন হাস্যকর অনুকরণ এর একটাই ঘটনা মনে আছে, আবার যখের ধন সিরিয়ালটায় গরিলা সাজা লোকটা।

৮. যখন শঙ্কর আর আলভারেজ কোন এক বিখ্যাত লেক পার হচ্ছিল ওদের সাথে ছিল একটা ছোট ডিঙ্গি নৌকা, আর সীমিত খাবারদাবার। এদিকে যখন তাঁবু ফেলছিল সেই তাঁবু দেখলে তো রাজারাজড়াদেরও বিষম খাবার কথা. দেখে মনে হচ্ছিল কোনো আরব শেখ বনে শিকার করতে গেছে, দুজন উত্সাহী পরিব্রাজক নয় যারা তাদের সব সম্বল নিঃস্ব করে বেরিয়ে পড়েছে ভ্রমন করতে। দু দুটো ঢাউস ধবধবে সাদা তাঁবু বুনিপ তো বটেই জঙ্গলের আর যত জীবজন্তু ছিল সবার ই তো চলে আসার কথা মানুষ সার্কাস দেখতে।

৯. গুহা থেকে বেরিয়ে বুনিপ মারতে যাওয়া আর এক হাস্যকর ব্যাপার, সেই সিনেমা লম্বা করার চাল। অত সব কাঠকুটো কথা থেকে এলো, অত অত দড়িই বা কোথা থেকে এলো ফাঁদ বানানোর জন্যে তা চিন্তার বাইরে। দিকহারা, ক্ষিধেয় পাগল মানুষ অতক্ষণ ফাঁদ বানাতে কাটাল এটা সিনেমাতেই চলে।

যাক লিস্টি আর বাড়িয়ে কাজ নেই, একেই ফালতু সময় নষ্ট অনেক করেছি সিনেমাটা দেখতে বসেই।