“Waiting for Happiness” a 2002 Mauritanian movie directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. The movie has no linear story structure, its a series of shots all ultimately forming some kind of story. There is a student Abdallah (Mohamad Mahmood Ould Mohamed) who has returned from abroad on a holiday perhaps but he is most of time inside his house, not going out, very introverted, not speaking to people, not wearing the traditional dress and not knowing the Hassanya language.
Then there is a father son duo of Maata (Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid) and his son Khatra (Khatra Ould Abder Kader), on whom lot of time in the movie is spent. Maata is an electrician and Khatra is learning the ropes from him. Then there is a mother daughter duo where the mother is playing a string instrument and teaching music to the daughter. The music and singing are both very good.
Abdallah is interested in a local girl who had a kid from somebody and the kid died, but he is unable to form words to speak to the girl. The movie meanders slowly in the harsh desert landscape of the country, not much happening on a daily basis. The film is shot near a coast so there are ample shots of the ocean, perhaps the Atlantic Ocean because Mauritania is on the west coast of Africa. There is also a shot of a train passing through the desert and people scrambling to board the train through the windows.
The direction is quite tight knit despite the lack of a story and so is the camera work and cinematography. The kid Khatra is the star of the film though Maata and Abdallah have also done useful roles. Its a movie without a beginning and without an end.
Avant Garde Japanese movie “The Naked Island” (1960) made by Kaneto Shindo and starring Nobuko Otowa and Taiji Tonoyama. Its a movie which does not have any dialogue, not a single one. All sounds are from the background music or natural sounds of goats bleating or ducks quaking or trees swaying by or the breeze. The only times there are when some children are shown playing in a school and when Nobuko laughs once and cries twice, the second time a wailing sound. Nobuko and Taiji along with their two small kids are living in an island all by themselves, all alone with no other family around. The island does not have any water, so they have to lug the water from other islands or the mainland and carry them back rowing in their boat and climbing up the steep rocky slopes of their island holding two barrels by their shoulders. The elder kid goes to a school in mainland so Nobuko rows him to school and picks up some more water and then goes back to pick him up and again picks up some more water. They are planting some vegetables in their island for which they need fresh water to water their plants in that dry arid climate. Its tough back breaking work for both of them.
And then the elder kid falls ill, so Taiji rushes off to the mainland and runs many kilometers to locate a doctor and bring him back, rowing back and forth. Unfortunately the kid dies so his school mates come along for the funeral. The younger kid gazes longingly at the departing school children when they go back after the funeral. Nobuko almost gives up and throws down the pail of water and wails uncontrollably but her husband is stoic as usual he waits for a few seconds and then resumes the watering of the plants.
Unusual theme to a movie without a single dialogue, but the camera work and cinematography is quite brilliant. Both Nobuko and Taiji have acted well in the tough roles given to them, having to lug all those water barrels up and down a mountain. It must have been an arduous film shoot for them.
A kind of an avant garde film by Konkona Sen Sharma “A Death in the Gunj” deals with the sensitive issue of a nervous, introverted person failing to come upto the standards of an upward high society. Shutu (Vikrant Massey in a brilliant role) is a young kid just out of college, but not having confidence despite his bright academic record, he plays chess, solves the difficult crossword puzzles and yet he has failed in his college semester. The film does’nt give much background on his character save to throw him amongst the group of friends who descend into McCluskieganj, to celebrate the 1979 new year. Shutu knows only one family of the Bakshis (Tanuja and Om Puri and their son and his family. When he is thrown in with the others, he flounders. There is lot of nervousness in the air, palpable tension due to Shutu’s failures and his inability to communicate confidently. He gets infatuated with Kalki Koechlin but ultimately she also sees him as a loser student. Konkona has kept the focus on Shutu despite so many other characters in the film. Vikrant Massey is the man to watch to watch out for, he has done a searing portrayal of a highly strung young man down in the dumps. It is not a perfect movie but Konkona has got a lot of things right and Massey saves the day for her.
Meshes of the Afternoon, (1943) a short film created by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. Its again a surrealist film just like Luis Bunuel’s “Un Chien Andalou”. A woman is seen as walking down a path, she goes to a door, finds it locked, finds the hidden key, the key falls down onto the stairs, then she goes inside the room, which is in disarray, the phone is off the hook, she finds a knife on a bread, a record player playing and then somebody is chasing her, she in turn is chasing a lady without a face but not able to catch her. The images and visuals keep repeating like in a dream. There is no meaning to the movie, its a dream sequence, and one can interpret it the way one wants. Later a man comes into the house, the same sequence keeps repeating, with the key and the knife and the lady. One can sum it as the character’s thought patterns in a time of crisis.
A Swedish psychological drama movie (1966) written & directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson. The film starts with some weird images juxtaposed with each other. Liv Ullmann who is Elisabeth Vogler in the movie is in a hospital with an apparently nervous break down. She is a theater actor and during the staging of one play she freezes for one minute fully. The doctor thinks she is mentally sound but arranges for Elma (Bibi Andersson in a brilliant role) to be assigned to her. Then the doctor arranges for Elisabeth to be put up in the doctor’s sea side house and assigns Elma to be with her full time. Nurse Elma talks and talks and opens up with her admiration of the actor and various other personal details but Elisabeth does not utter a single word throughout the movie. Over a period of time, the identity of both the personalities inter mingle with each other and super impose one over the other. Nurse Alma then narrates all that is wrong with Elisabeth which has led to her present condition, her guilt complex with not caring for her son. Brilliant movie it gets on one’s nerves and quite scary for Nurse Alma to be in the position she was. Multiple interpretations have emerged of the context of the movie including possible lesbian under tones. Imagine you are in close contact with somebody and you talk but the other just listens without talking at all – after some time, it will get on one’s nerves surely.
Image is taken from internet for representational purposes only and not with an intention of violating copyright.
The Exterminating Angel (1962), a brilliant surrealistic film made by Luis Bunuel. Guests arrive at a mansion for dinner but just before dinner, most of the serving staff and cook leave the mansion for one reason or another. Once the dinner is over and piano recital is also done it is almost 3 a.m. in the morning. But nobody leaves the mansion. They linger on one pretext or another and stay the night. One night becomes several nights, and by then all the food and even water in the house is exhausted. Tempers get flared between, jealousies come out in open, one elderly guy dies, two lovers commit suicide. The guests try to kill the host assuming that all this is his plot. Luis Bunuel is a brilliant Spanish-Mexican film maker with avant garde surrealism as his central motto. Brilliant movie for those who want to watch beyond the normal masala type movies