Monday, August 27, 2012
MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Trishna
This week’s "Movie of the Week" is Michael Winterbottom’s "Trishna", a modern re-imagining of the novel 'Tess of the d’Urbervilles', relocated to take place in India. It tells the tale of a young peasant woman who becomes involved in an ill-fated romance with a wealthy businessman. The director takes an interesting approach to this tragic love story, creating a very low-key atmosphere. The film almost feels like a docudrama thanks to the directing, cinematography and screenplay. Winterbottom withholds any flashy directing style and lets the story come into focus. The dialogue is very naturalistic and never sounds scripted or disinegenous. You feel like you are just watching real people go about their everyday lives. The drama almost becomes too subdued, but the film makes up for it by being aesthetically pleasing. The shots of India are wonderful, without over-emphasizing the typical "colorful", "overpopulated" or "poverty-stricken" elements. It’s just showing you a typical developing country, albeit a very large one.
In addition, the soundtrack is lovely and surprisingly doesn’t attempt to manipulate your emotions. It’s simply good music and is well-chosen for the tone of the film. In fact, one of the music themes in the film reminded me of "In the Mood For Love" and lo and behold, it’s the same composer (Shigeru Umebayashi)!
As the title character, Freida Pinto is competent in the role. She is especially good at delivering the early tentative interactions between her and people of the upper-class. She nails the uncomfortable English speech (she only has a basic eduation), as well as the self-deprecating sense of respect for anyone above her social status. If you know about India’s traditional caste system, then you’d understand that this is a key aspect to this story. Despite these strengths, I still think the role would have been more effective with a more "theatrical" performer. Pinto is unable to fully express the highs and lows of her character’s journey. Hence, we aren’t really tuned in to Trishna’s inner turmoil throughout the film. As a result, the emotional pay-off at the end falls short, as we are unable to fully sympathize with her. This is a big problem for the film, as its impact depends on sympathy for the victim. Considering how the plot unfolds, the viewer should be absolutely devastated by the end. I wasn’t, and I realized this as a missed opportunity. Everything considered, the film is still on my mind weeks later, so it must be doing something right. I am sure the wonderful scenery and music have a lot to do with it.