Category Archives: Learning from the experts

Little Boy – Alejandro Monteverde

So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

As the title suggests, Little Boy is a film about a little boy. The film is set in the 1940s. Ostracised by the kids around him, this boy named Pepper (Jakob Salvati) finds his best friend in his father (Michael Rapaport). The two continue looking at their life through their fantasies until Pepper’s father enlists in his older son’s place for World War II. Now, Pepper is willing to do anything it takes to bring his father back to him. Even if it is totally beyond his control.

Watch the trailer here.

On his quest for bringing back his father, pepper meets certain people who influence him in a great manner.

  1. His elder brother London (David Henrie) who is filled with hostility towards the Japanese, just like the rest of America during war. London is also raged by the fact that he was declared ineligible for military service because of flat feet and that his father has to fight “his war” for him. After some days when the news of his father being taken as a prisoner of war reaches his family, London loses his mind and takes out his aggression on an old local Japanese guy named Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Along with Pepper, London attempts to threaten Hashimoto and gets arrested for the same.
  2. Pepper finds a hero. Just like the one in his imaginary world. Ben Eagle, the magician (Ben Chaplin). Who shows him a magic trick and moves a bottle.
  3. One day in the church, Pepper hears the Bible verse, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (Mt. 17:20), and goes to the town priest, Father Oliver (Tom Wilkinson) to learn how to use the power of faith. encourages Pepper to befriend Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). And also gives him a checklist that will make his faith stronger. And which will help him get his father back.
  4. Hashimoto becomes Pepper’s friend and helps him believe in himself. He tells him the story of a Samurai warriors who fought and saved his country from stronger enemies. Hashimoto argues with the priest that what he is doing will not help in bringing Pepper’s father back. And after Pepper completes the list, if his father does not come back from war, he will lose faith in himself.

These characters suggest that the film is also about having a good role model. And also about how through so many adverse thoughts surround the kid, how he makes his own choices and finds his own personal religion.

It is a very interesting term, personal religion. It signifies the personal, one on one relationship with an individual and God. No matter what others tell you about God, you will always have your own idea of God. And your ego will govern your relationship with God. Your ego will tell you whether you are acting in a way that God would appreciate or not.

The film is about a little boy and The Little Boy. It is an uplifting tale about faith and the power of believing in something. And at the same time, it does a commendable job of staying away from preachiness. In the end, it kept everything quite open to interpretation, making us the little boy and giving us a choice to believe what we want. Most impressively, the film points out that there is little difference between faith and magical thinking.

The film is written and directed by Smithsonian Institute Award winning director Alejandro Monteverde. And produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the husband-and-wife team behind “Son of God.” It earned $6.5 million on a $20 million budget. Which is kind of sad.

I watched this film and afterwards like I usually do, I searched for it online. I was stunned. I was amazed to see such negative reviews for a movie of this calibre. And I thought as a person who appreciates cinema should make an attempt to let the makers of this marvel know, that I think the movie is truly brilliant.

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Looper, Time travel and More

“It is the big choices we make that set our direction. It is the smallest choices we make that get is to our destination.” – Dr. Shad Helmstetter

On the surface it looks like an action film based on the concept of time-travel. But as we explore further, it has more to it. I can’t say whether it is good or bad.

(The article does not contain a synopsis of the film. Please read it here or elsewhere. And then enjoy reading!)

Time Travel in Looper:

Time Travel is a very complicated subject when put to celluloid. It never answers all of your questions and creates paradoxes. By the end of the film when the credits start rolling, you always have to interpret what you saw on screen. That makes it really difficult for the makers of the film to make something palatable for the audience. We have seen films which are fairly easy to understand (Back to the Future Trilogy, The Terminator) and we have also seen complicated subjects in Cloud Atlas. (Cloud Atlas is Time Travel, kind of…) Looper has some really different theories about time travel.

Massive spoilers are ahead.

The movie has a linear approach to the repercussions of time travel. We experience stuff as the characters experience it.  Everything is kind of being created and fused in terms of the timeline in the present moment. Nothing has happened till it has actually happened. The makers have made an excellent explanation of how time travel affects the future self by torturing Seth (Paul Dano). Seth lets his future self run away instead of killing him. So his boss finds Young Seth and etches the location on his hand. The location then appears as a scar on Old Seth’s hand. While he struggles to get there, he keeps losing his fingers and eventually loses his legs. His limbs disappear. It implies that Young Seth is being tortured and his body is getting disintegrated piece by piece. Old Seth reaches the spot where Kid Blue (Noah Segan) kills him.

Similarly, Young Joe etches on his hand to give a message to Old Joe. When Young Joe gets shot, the bullet wound appears on Old Joe’s shoulder. Old Joe also forms new memories as per what Young Joe experiences. The only problem in the film according to this theory is that Old Joe disappears rather than dying in the last scene when Young Joe kills himself. When Young Seth loses his legs, Old Seth still exists and continues living in a linear timeline although it would’ve been impossible to get where he is shown in the film without his legs. So that implies that what happens to your younger self will appear instantaneously to you. In that sense Old Joe should fall down or turn into ashes when Young Joe dies.

In the Terminator series, we have multiple overlapping timelines. Every change creates a complete divergent timeline. In Looper, we have a similar situation, but everything loops back into into a single point in the same single timeline.

Metaphors and other cool stuff:

1. Blunderbuss vs magnum

As the makers have made it pretty obvious in the film poster, the Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sports a Blunderbuss shotgun and the Old Joe (Bruce Willis) has a magnum. In the film, the characters explain the specific role of these two different guns. Blunderbuss is a short range weapon but it is unmissable. At the same time Magnum has greater accuracy and can cover a long distance. Maybe that is what the decisions of our lead characters signify. Young Joe always thinks about his short term gains while Old Joe thinks on a long term basis. In the end, Young Joe kills himself with a blunderbuss. He goes with his gut feeling and finds a way of making a long term impact with a short range weapon.

2. The Stubborn Stump

When Young Joe meets Sara (Emily Blunt), she is trying to get rid of a huge tree stump in her field with an axe. Young Joe tells her that using an axe might not be the quickest way of getting the results. Sara doesn’t respond to this suggestion. She continues to break the stump using her axe. She chips off little pieces every time she strikes. This may not be the most efficient way of doing the thing but Sara believes that she needs to be patient. In the narrative of the film, we see that Sara’s son Cid doesn’t believe that Sara is his mother as he was raised by Sara’s sister after Sara abandoned him. This is the stubborn idea in Cid’s head which Sara needs to clear and she needs to be very patient about it. This element makes the movie about good parenting and how it can change the world.

Shock and AWE, provided by David Donihue

Whatever! Simply whatever you want to learn, The Internet is the answer. Nowadays, it is simple for us to just type a query in the search bar and get the answers in an instant. Living is far less challenging now, isn’t it? Well, not exactly. Even though The Internet is full of information, not all of it is worthy of your time. It might not even be true for that matter. In such times, I can’t express the joy when I discover something that is truly brilliant. Something that all of us young filmmakers can aspire to do some day!

1.Take Me Home

Just some time ago I discovered this music video by David Donihue. I was astonished by the positivity it has to offer. Not one of us gets everything so easily. And the way you deal with failure is what defines your character. There are two things that matter in the world. The situation and your reaction to the situation. Rather than revealing anything more about the contents of the music video, I’d just like to say that this video was uploaded just about 12 days ago and it has already crossed the 300,000 mark. Go ahead and watch it!

2. Shock To The System

Upon doing some research I found a few more videos by the same director. This time, it’s a totally different subject and the treatment will leave you astonished. A thought provoking concept, conveyed beautifully. Avoid the family filter and watch it. It is imperative that you do!

3. Doping

Well, just as I was talking about our reaction to the situation that matters, I saw this. It led me to believe that the situation doesn’t matter at all. In fact nothing else matters. This beautiful She Hulk in the video brought out the monster in me. It reminded me of two little words I love to say to all of them who do not appreciate my efforts. The video made me laugh and it made me think! That is quite an achievement!

4. Blue Sky

Something ironic about the video being in black and white isn’t it? I am a fan of Black and White. In fact, the very first film that I made was in black and white. Even one of my latest films is in black and white. The tone itself made me nostalgic. The music and the lyrics were a brilliant addition that simply took me down the memory lane. Watch the video and learn how well emotions can be handled!

“So who is the one that fills your life with colours?” This is the question I wanted to ask myself upon looking at the video. The video is simple and yet touching. And the interpretation of the title “Blue Sky” in the video makes this video one of my favourite music videos I have seen lately. I feel the title of any film or any art form for that matter, should have a deeper meaning. I could sense the director wanting to derive that meaning from the title of the song and incorporate it into the video so that it reaches the audience effectively.

(I took a break as I wanted to download these songs from iTunes, or otherwise.)

Coming back to the film making bit of these five videos… I think what I loved the most about these videos are the story part of them. Nowadays, when the attention span of audiences has shrunk down it is remarkable to find something that can hold the audience for 5 to 6 minutes. Usually we see music videos with fast moving imagery and no story at all. But I feel, the story behind a film is very important. And even I am sure I will definitely remember these music videos for the story and the overall direction.

Why am I featuring this awesome filmmaker?

I feel some filmmakers, over a period of time develop a style for themselves that they are comfortable in. I feel it is very dangerous for the “art” of cinema. As soon as an artist enters his comfort zone, the art dies. And I feel David over here is determined to give us a variety of good films in the form of music videos. I feel it is important that we learn that nothing good ever comes out of comfort zone.

Discovering a new artist on The Internet is happiness. It is a day well spent.

I want to share this happiness with you guys and I want you to pass it along…

Cheers!

The Theory of Court (Court by Chaitanya Tamhane)

Before I begin writing anything about the film, I would like to clarify my intention of this post. First of all, this is not a film review. I don’t consider myself or anybody for that matter to pass rigid judgements on any art form. I believe I am writing this to engage into a discussion. People argue that the film is overrated. I feel everything is either overrated or underrated. Nothing is rated appropriately. If it was my baby I would’ve preferred an overrated baby rather than an underrated one. It took me a while to sink into the treatment of the film. But once I accepted it, I stopped judging it and my learning process begun.  I want to emphasis on the elements in the film that I liked and the elements that didn’t appeal to my tastes. And more importantly, I feel this subject and this art form requires a debate more than “My Choice” by Deepika Padukone / Homi Adajania.

In November 2014, when I was in the middle of a feast of films at Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), I came across a counter which was serving Court; it was flooded with hungry cinephiles. After missing 2 screenings and watching the third one from the aisles, my love-hate relationship with the film began.

MACROS

The film was a massive success at MAMI. It won the Best Feature Film award and the 62nd National Film Awards. And quite poetically, the Grand Prix Aleksandar Sasa Petrovic – Best Film award at Auteur Film Festival. Auteur is the fancy French word for Author. There is a “kind of” famous Auteur theory in Film by film critic François Truffaut. Which in simple terms makes the Director of the film, the author of the film; writing with a “camera-pen”. The film is the reflection of the director’s personal vision. And in case of Court, it truly is as personal and as visionary as it gets.

The film is a courtroom drama about a case whose verdict is pending. That’s how I would summarize the film in one line. The film is about this case. The case over here is not just the plot but also the protagonist. It’s a hybrid. You can imagine the case as the hero of the film surrounded by some important characters. We have the accused, Narayan Kamble; the defence lawyer, Vinay Vora (Vinayak Gombar); the public prosecutor (I think unnamed, played by Geetanjali Kulkarni) and the Judge (Pradeep Joshi). For those seeking more info about the plot of the film, watch the film.

Ever watched Bicycle Thieves or The Apu Trilogy? Yep, the boring ones. These films introduced Neo-Realism to the world. The theme of these films, if we can generalise, is the melancholy of contemporary life. That is the section where Court falls. Except, the director has introduced one additional theme through this film – lethargy. And this theme compliments the subject so well that it in fact enhances the experience. Honestly this is the one word you can use to describe the judiciary system of India. And that’s exactly what we see over here.

If the law of the state is going to permit me, then I would like to abduct Chaitanya Tamhane and his casting team and torture them till they spill all their casting secrets. The casting of the film, is marvellous. It simply enhances the authenticity of the film.

MICROS

The film begins with Narayan Kamble reading a poem about a Butterfly. You and I, (normal human beings) get scared when a butterfly enters our house. Not because it’s harmful for us, but it’s harmful for that innocent creature. Because it a cage for him with all sorts of dangers. My grandmother told me as a kid that once a butterfly enters a house, it doesn’t get out. That’s the accused for you. The accused, is the innocent one; just doing his job, now trapped in the system. Voila!

Let it be any character, when he/she enters the shot you see him/her entering from one end of the frame and exiting from another. Usually what we do is, we show a person entering → cut to close up → cut to another shot → boom, characters are about to exit the frame. That’s how we usually cut. Not only the characters are shown moving from one end to another in a frame in a single shot which has practically no dialogues but also there is a 4 second gap before the character enters and after the character leaves. There is a shot where the defence lawyer drops off the victim’s wife in a car. You should focus on that shot if you want to understand what I mean. Absolutely no cuts. Full action, just the way it happens. Even though there is no drama. On the other hand, conversations containing important exposition are just incomplete excerpts. I would like someone to help me understand this particular treatment.

Speaking more about the editing, in one scene the defence lawyer speaks about Human Rights and the Mohsin Parvez case at some event. He is disturbed several times. During his speech he is disturbed several times. Once when a guy stops him for placing a fan. I feel it emphasised two things. One was how seriously this matter is being taken by the audience and the organisers and two is that this point will not really make sense in the system. And I feel this is the only scene where we have a sharp cut, just when the Vora is disturbed for the second time.

The courtroom part of the film ends with the verdict pending. But the screenplay continues. Both the sides have made their point.  The judge, at some distinct point in the future will pass the judgement. And he does, when he slaps the verbally challenged kid based on the evidence, rather than empathising with the situation. That sums up our drama part. Roll Credits. (Slowly)

PS. I’d also like to know what happened to the music. (?)

THE THEORY

Every web-page that I visited so far describes Court as a critique of Indian Judiciary System. I  think that it is beyond that. It is a critique of our culture. That is why we have a highly educated lawyer, who drives his own car, takes his assistant to a trial, listens and enjoys portuguese songs, lives separately even though his parents own a building helping a man just for the sake of justice against a lower middle class public prosecutor who travels by train, can’t afford a maid, who lives in a one room-kitchen flat, watches old minded Marathi plays. It is the contrast in culture. And we have simple people, doing their job. When you think about it everyone is doing the job honestly. So the theory over here is – in Bicycle Thieves we have the situation becoming the villain making ordinary people steal; over here we have the system and our culture making us form the opinions about right and wrong.

“It’s the law vs. it’s a grey matter!”

VERDICT

When I watch a film, I’ve made a rule of keeping an open mind and a selfish one too. I have decided to keep the bad part away and take what is good with me. That helps me enjoy The Attacks of 26/11 not thinking that it’s an RGV film so it’s supposed to be disappointing. So with an open mind, when I watched this film for the second time, I noted down a lot that the film has to offer… Mostly good although unconventional. Most importantly it has given all of the young filmmakers something to aspire to. The dedication, the honesty and the genuine efforts of the makers. And it has again proved the point that any artist needs to have one quality in his possession in order to be successful – conviction.
“When I am making a film, I am the audience.” – Martin Scorsese

The Indie Movement that Moves You

Cinema is nowhere close to being the cheapest form of art. On the contrary it could possibly be the most expensive art form practiced worldwide. As we witnessed the digital revolution, cinema has started to become more and more personal. We are just counting days till the next Rodriguez comes up with his version of El Mariachi shot on his iPhone. And we will appreciate it not because it is shot with no budget. But for the fact that an individual has the guts to invest resources both in the form of time and money to tell his unique story.

Sulemani Keeda is a story of storytellers. It is about two struggling writers in the suburbs of Mumbai trying to make a career and deal with even more complex issues in life; such as love and, life. But it is far from being a documentary about how difficult it is to get into the industry and how one has to keep his morals aside. By watching the trailer itself you can tell that about the film that it is not a Madhur Bhandarkar film.

Simple is boring – At least when it comes to characters, make them complex. Right from their dressing sense to their smallest attributes. Give the audience something to remember. In the film, the second lead played by Mayank Tewari dwells on this simple principle.

Comic relief – For me, the genre of the film was comedy. So you can’t really call it a comic relief. But take a serious film for example – Life is Beautiful. No matter how serious your subject is, the audience needs some hope. Some reason to believe that things are going to get better. So a dramatic scene sandwiched between comedy scenes is even more gripping and it distracts from the melodrama on screen.

Every person can have a different approach to the same story. If I have to make this same film again, I would make it in a completely different form. That’s why there are new films coming every week. Because the plot of two films could be similar but the treatment of the film can change the whole perspective.

On a totally irrelevant note – Irrelevant scenes that are memorable get etched into the audience’s mind. Get your characters out of their comfort zones. Let them do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. Try to capture the emotions over there and you have a brilliant scene.

In terms of technicalities the film lacks the professional touch. At least that’s what I felt. Watching it on Vimeo certainly doesn’t make me the best judge of it. But the cinematography and the sound design was quite off. I seriously felt such a fresh story needed a better technical support. But nevertheless, it wasn’t distracting me from the story. As long as the story is going in the right direction, I don’t mind compromising on these details.

Apart from a fresh script if there is anything that makes the film what it is then it is the conviction behind it. No matter what the budget is, you are always spending time while making a film. Right from the idea to actually watching it on the screen, it takes a huge investment in terms of time. And it is a great achievement to dedicate yourself to a project such as this with little or no guarantee of returns. That is what I take back from this film.

I hate the fact that such attempts are showered with almost no love by the audience. Yes, we have a certain group that actually goes to the theaters to watch an experimental film by a talented new director. Yet, when it comes to actually getting the money back from revenues, set aside some profit; is extremely difficult. But everyone knows that. As the one character in the film says – if you want to make a film, think like a shopkeeper, not like a writer. So I don’t know about others, but I actually want to catch as many indie films as I can in the theaters this year.

To watch Sulemani Keeda online, follow these steps

Oh and by the way, here are some of the greatest indie films. Let’s watch them together!

#Tragicomedy – Life is Beautiful (1997) – Roberto Benigni

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.
– Charlie Chaplin
(Note to all readers: The following is not a film review to be frank. Just some thoughts this film triggered. The film is a must watch without knowing anything about it. If you have not watched it yet, go and watch it right now)
Have you heard of The Merchant of Venice? It is one of the most perfect examples of tragicomedy. You cannot really determine if it is a tragedy or a comedy, even though the words perfectly contrast each other. At some points you feel buoyant and in another blink you are laid down by stockpiles of misfortunes. The overall mood, is neither bright nor gloomy. It has something from both these worlds.
Life is Beautiful is a story of a loving father and a caring mother, and a birthday gift for their son.
Life is Beautiful is a fable of the family of an Italian Jewish book shop owner, captured by the Nazis.
For me both these one liners make complete sense. Because the film, as a whole cannot be termed as one story. The life of this family is the story of the film and there are two drastically opposite episodes in this story.
Narrative Structure:
I feel there are six acts to this film. Or you may rather say, there are two halves of three acts each.
Act I: Guido’s (Roberto Benigni’s) introduction till the point he bumps into Dora (Nicoletta Braschi)
Act II: Guido’s quest to express his love to Dora
Act III: Dora runs away and marries Guido
Act I: Guido’s family and the new life as a book shop owner till they are captured
Act II: Life in the Nazi concentration camp
Act III: Chaos in the camp as the Allied Forces (Americans) approach
I belong to a constitution of film lovers that believes in the importance of the title of the film. I like titles that are ambiguous, yet make sense on watching the film. There is some surface area to them, as well as some volume. They mean something at first, but when you go pause your life and think a little more about it; they mean something even deeper.
The film ends with a voice over of Joshua (Guido’s Son) which goes like this:
“This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me.”
A whole generation of fathers, sacrificed their lives so that their sons can live in a beautiful world believing that life is beautiful. Also, the family is taken captive on the day of Joshua’s birthday. So what follows, he considers as his birthday present.
Life is Beautiful, indeed it is! But one must cloak all the problems and believe that everything is going to be alright. That ultimately if he doesn’t give in; his faith, his patience will be rewarded. That is how one can make his life beautiful. By having faith in it.
It is astounding how the film manages to switch so quickly from an exaggerated (almost slapstick) comedy to a tragedy. And it does it with such an ease. When dealing with a dramatic subject, not all from the audience can have empathy for your characters. Most of the people go to the movies to escape from their troubled lives. So it is important to have a comic relief to manage the grip on the audience when the subject is burdensome. Over here, the film deals with – Nazi concentration camps – a very emotional subject for many if not all. And yet, even after the switch; the film gives you some moments to smile. Another director could’ve shifted to a completely cheerless treatment in the second half. But Benigni keeps rewarding your faith throughout.
Charlie Chaplin once confessed that one cannot make a comedy out of the Nazi era, like the one he made The Great Dictator. Benigni successfully falsified his claim by making this masterpiece. I am not the one who usually ends up weeping after an emotionally intriguing movie. However, I felt a lump in my throat after watching Life is Beautiful.
Life is Beautiful was shown at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to win the Grand Prix. At the 71st Academy Awards, the film won awards for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, and Best Foreign Language Film, with Benigni winning Best Actor for his role. The film also received Academy Award nominations for Directing, Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture

#6 Learning From The Experts – Enemy by Denis Villeneuve

“There is no lack of spiders’ webs in the world, from some you escape, in others you die.”

~ José Saramago’s The Double

It is all about a history teacher named Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers his perfectly identical copy Anthony Claire. This one sentence should be enough to explain the overview of the film. However the film deals with much deeper subjects as it proceeds.

The film opens with a rather disturbing scene in a sex club where the protagonist and some other men watch prostitutes masturbating. Another prostitute takes off her robe and presents a spider in a plate. We cut away as she is about to crush the spider. We start off with a voice-mail from the protagonist’s mother. She thanks him for showing her his new apartment and that she is worried about him and his life.

Adam Bell is a history teacher who is perfectly occupied in his daily routine and is evidently fed up with it. He lives in a small apartment with only a bed and a table for a laptop. His shares his nights with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). But it appears that apart from the sex there is hardly any relationship left. Whereas the other person who resembles Adam has worked as a junior artist in a couple of local films. Anthony Claire is married to Helen (Sarah Gadon) and she is pregnant.

The duplicates decide to meet up in a motel room. Anthony is surprised to discover the similarities but Adam freaks out. Anthony follows Adam and discovers his life. Later on he confronts Adam and questions him if he has slept with Anthony’s wife. Adam does not answer. Anthony proposes that they can only be even if he gets to take Adam’s girlfriend on a romantic date. By this point, the lives of these individuals are entangled beyond any repair.

(Heavy spoilers ahead)

This is one of the films which needs a lot of thinking after you are done watching it. You need to watch it at least twice to discover what it means. Or else it seems simply silly than suspenseful. The director Denis Villeneuve has explained in a few interviews that it is “a documentary of his subconscious.” These days, I am more inclined towards thinking that in every psychological mystery it is either a multiple personality disorder or the protagonist is a schizophrenic. And most of the times I am right.

In the film, both the characters are essentially the same person. This person tried acting as a profession some time in the past but now he is a history teacher. He is married to Helen and he is an adulterer. He has been caught by his wife and she fears that he will cheat on her again. The film is the protagonist’s subconscious struggle to be faithful to his wife. Which one of these two personalities is real? Well actually both of them are. Our protagonist is a mixture of both and he is struggling to fight his Anthony bit and not cheat on his wife again.

Why I like the film in particular is because of the hidden symbols and metaphors. And of course it gives us one of the most shocking endings. The colour scheme of the film is a striking tint of yellow and green. The director explained that the whole look and the smog came from the idea of pressure. Smog signifies pollution. Pollution of the atmosphere and pollution of the mind.

The use of spiders in the film signifies patterns. Spiders are considered as an ancient archetype, ‘The Weaver’. Females strive for order and males strive for chaos. A female spider kills the male spider she mates with. That explains the shot where the prostitute crushes the spider in the beginning. By attending the sex club, the protagonist crushes the order, the dictatorship.

The biggest mystery of the film, just like the director’s earlier film, Prisoners is the name of the film. Some claim that women are the enemies but the protagonist seem to be at ease with women. Then who is the enemy? The protagonist himself, his actions and his habits are his enemies.

Enemy is really a movie entirely about discomfort. A person pursuing his best attempt to free himself from the pattern. From his unreasonable tendency to cheat on his wife. To accept her not as a dictator but as a partner. To set aside his fear of commitment and be a loyal husband. All this put forward in an unusual and surreal manner. As I said earlier, it would take a sane person two or maybe three viewings to somewhat decipher the “chaos” what the film produces. The question is, do the people care?

There is a minority who speaks positively about the film. I believe the film is kind of ahead of its time. And one of the best films I watched this year.

#5 Anthony Hopkins – The Power of Extreme Closeups

The subject I am writing about is much wider than this particular film. Yet I want to surround my post around this movie because of its exceptional use of extreme closeups.

There are a lot of definitions of what an extreme closeup is. I prefer to say is when you take a close up and you go even closer, so close that you can feel the breath of the character, and even the slightest of change in expressions you are taking an extreme closeup.

I observed in the film, when the lead characters – Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) and Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) talk to each other the camera hardly moves any farther than a mid-shot. And that comprises of a major portion of the film. I think this special treatment is designed to portray the suffocating conversation that they have. And when we move to an extreme close-up of the Cannibal Anthony Hopkins, we know that this guy means business.

At first I thought it was a mere coincidence but later on I paid close attention to this. Hopkins hardly blinks in the entire movie. He does not take his eyes off his “patient”. Also there is a purpose for keeping Hopkins behind a glass wall rather than bars. The director Jonathan Demme was convinced that shooting through bars would compromise the intimacy between Dr. Lector and Clarice.

What does an extreme closeup achieve?

1. It chokes you: At least in a thriller like this, you are forced to wonder what is going through the mind of the character when his pupils dilate. You wonder what he is looking at. You wonder what he is saying. You wonder what he is about to do next. The whole idea of not being able to see the action is the greatest power of extreme close-ups. For a twisted character, how dangerous it is not to be able to see what he is up to?

2. Emphasis on a particular line: Maybe not in this film, but one can use extreme close-ups to make a line stand out, to reveal a secret.

3. Cut the chin: a very simple trick I learnt in my film school. Actually I was told NOT to cut the chin ever. If at all going to a close up from a mid-shot you can cut a little bit of forehead but never the chin. It gives out an image of the head being cut out from the body. When asked to describe the character of Dr. Hannibal Lector, Hopkins said that the Lector is a good man trapped by an insane mind. Wonderful!

Hopkins, in the film is present for no longer than 25 minutes in total. His performance is the second shortest to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. There are only three films who have won the Big Five Academy Awards till date. This film was one of them. Since 1991 no other film has been able to repeat this success. The film is considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and is preserved in the National Film Registry in 2011.

#4 Learning from the experts – Nishtha Jain

For those of you who are not familiar with one of the prime candidates for the best documentary film makers of India, Nishtha Jain; she is a former student of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). She has directed critically acclaimed films such as At My Doorstep, Lakshmi and Me, 6 Yards to Democracy etc. Along with Smriti Nevatia, the duo runs an independent documentary film company named Raintree Films.

I had the privilege of meeting Nishtha Jain at a film screening of Gulabi Gang in Mumbai. Here are a few points I noted as she interacted with us!

Nishtha Jain with Sampat Pal (the real leader of Gulabi Gang)

1. Making a documentary is an unpredictable job. You will never get what you wished for but you will certainly be rewarded for your patience. But Nishtha Jain believes in having everything in writing. No matter what, having a blueprint of your day will help you in deciding how to lead your crew.

2. Others might think otherwise, but making a documentary rather than anything else requires time. The crew spent five months with Gulabi Gang to produce this 96 minute marvel.

3. (I strongly contradict the following point) Nishtha does not believe in giving a direction so as to conveniently reach a desired climax. She believes it is essential to be neutral and non judgmental as a documentary film maker while conceiving a documentary.

4. People in the villages were casual with the camera. Being camera conscious is more of an urban-middle-class obsession. For the villagers, it was more threatening that Sampat Pal was about to interfere in the matter. And they focused on the boom pole; stared at it aimlessly. That worked just fine for the sound.

5. Most of the flow was decided on the edit table. It will not be wrong to say that documentaries are written on the edit table. (The film is edited by Arjun Gourisaria. This amazing documentary won its well deserved recognition for Best Non-Feature Film editing at the 61st National Film Awards. Nishtha was an essential part of the actual edit team as well)

6. You need to be a rebel. Being safe all the time will not get you a good sunset shot. Having said that, nobody appreciates a dead filmmaker with a half baked documentary. So, that!

 

The screening of Gulabi Gang was followed by a screening of the film Yellow. Although I enjoy fiction more, because of the ridicule Yellow produced in me, it heightened my experience of Gulabi Gang. Overall, it was a colourful evening.

 

The film Gulabi Gang was completed (shot) in 2010, first screened in Dubai at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012 and later in India in 2014. It is based on a women activist group in Bundelkhand, UP. It was distributed by Recyclewala Labs. The same guys who brought you Ship of Theseus which is available for a legal free download over here (at least in India).

If interested, do not miss the trailer of Gulabi Gang over here!