Sunday, October 26, 2014

'The Silence' by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

A brilliant film with stunning visuals and a lot of symbolism!

Khorshid, a blind boy, living with his mother, has to work as a music instrument tuner struggling to make ends meet. In  his daily routine of commuting from home through a market, in a bus and a walk through scores of metal-working factories to his music shop, he often gets distracted by pleasant voices or music and goes behind the origin of the voice/music.

Though he realises that his internal penchant for music and expected perfection in its tone and pitch is making him earn scorn from his employer, he believes that he is right in going after the music. His mother's incessant reminder every day morning that he needs to get more money from his employer to pay for their rent or soon they will be in the streets, hurts him visibly as he wanders towards his music shop - but only till he hears a good piece of music!

The beauty of the scenic shots are enhanced by minimal but adequate photographic movement and the finesse of BGM for a film titled 'the silence' (almost close to the quality of live recording) are truly captivating.

The scenes where Nadereh dances when Khorshid tunes the instruments - in stunning close-ups with amazing blend-in of music are poetic! Also one can see how natural lighting and composition can be used to enhance the scope of expressions in the scene where Nadereh takes him to the spring to fetch water.

The film is also symbolic in many ways:

- the climax where Khorshid walks through the metal-working factory and commands the workers to follow a rhythm (reaching the beam of light, removing his shirt - leaves with an impactful end)
- the scenes where Khorshid wanders in search of the musician he wanted to hear, especially after being fired from the job
- the scene where Nadereh, takes Khorshid by another route to the spring to avoid a way where there is 'a person threatening girls who are not wearing scarves'. But when they pass him, he sees them playing a string instrument (a beautiful piece) with his machine gun rested away from him.

I think, these three representations capture the inner struggle of a true and budding musician who aspires to rise above the worldly trivia. The director also conveys that even when religious extremism does nothing to help the non-school going, working children like Nadereh and Khorshed, also indicating a total governmental system failure, music could be a healing medicine or bridge between the divides.

I finally figured out what was the water splashing sound that Khorshid hears whenever he plugs his ears.  When he goes after the musician, disturbed by the impending eviction by their land-lord, worse, also losing the job, he plugs his ears only to repeatedly hear wave splashing sound. When unplugs, he could hear the music and other external sounds.

The landlord everyday comes to their house in the morning by a  boat to ask for the rent and that this is the splashing noise which has filled the very sensitive Khorshid, who keeps hearing it internally when he shuts out the music!

That is, figuratively, music replaces the worries and vice versa.

A really loveable and moving film by a master craftsman!

The White Balloon by Jafar Panahi

Followed by a couple of breathtaking movies from Majid Majidi, I wanted to venture upon other renowned Iranian creators. It started a weekend with Jafar Panahi's acclaimed 'The White Balloon', his directorial debut. The crisp screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami, another Iranian great himself, complements the narration and adequate cinematography - to put it correctly, every element in required measure.

The story is about the seven year old Razieh and her elder brother Ali. On the eve of the Iranian new year, Razieh and her mother are returning from shopping as the family is gearing up for festivities. The opening scene at the market place where the mother moves into the frame nonchalantly searching for the missing Razieh also introduces almost all major characters in the film - the arguing customer of the tailor, the afghan balloon seller and the Iranian soldier, being dropped.

Though Panahi does not introduce them to the viewer nor appearing in sequence of their later reappearance or importance, this is a curious technique - which I have heard of being used in films which revolve around catastrophic themes and larger-than life portrayals.

Razieh pushes her mother to give her the last 500 toman note for her to buy the 'chubby, white, four-finned and the dancing gold fish' for new year - maneuvering through her brother. She loses the money to two snake-charmers and gets it back from them only to lose it again, this time falling into a dry sewer in front of a closed shop. She convinces the next door shopowner to help her, gets her brother to help her and others as well.

They manage to retrieve it by using the Afghan balloon seller's stick, by placing a chewing gum at the tip.

The sub plots

Razieh is symbolised as how a modern woman should be: clear, forceful, resourceful and goal-oriented.

Clear - as she know what she wants and why she wants it. The way she explains how the fish looks, why it needs to be bought and how it differs to the 'skinny' ones she has shows the clarity of thinking.

Forceful - Razieh never lets her ambition down. Right through the movie people keep telling her many negative ideas - no need to buy the fish, no money, no time... she never once listens and single-mindedly engage with all of  them, only to convince them that the fish needs to be bought, money needs to be given to her or the note needs to be retrieved from the gutter - somehow. Not once she ditches her ambition and nor she leaves guard of the money.

At one instance, she has the thoughtfulness to run to the fish seller and make him reserve the fish, negotiates with him and explains she will get back before shop-closing time and will buy the fish.

Resourceful - right from making her brother go after the next shop's owner to trace the owner of the closed shop to enlisting the balloon seller to help them retrieve the bank note, Razieh keeps looking for resources to help her win the situation. She, failing to convince her mom to give money, barters her balloon with her brother to make him get the money from mother. There are ample scenes right through the film where Panahi establishes this trait.

Goal-oriented - she never wavers from her goal, even when Ali is concerned about getting late to go back, they not able to trace the shop owner, the stranger (Iranian soldier) sitting next to her, knowing about the money inside the gutter, Razieh never once talks about mother, festivities, getting late and so on.

I believe Jafar Panahi symbolises her character with what he envisages for Iranian or more generally women. The beauty of a simple script and very adept dialogues adds a lot of texture to this neat work.

There are many minor symbolisms right through the movie but the three intriguing ones are:

Three Questions

Why is Razieh's father not shown right through the  film,in spite of being a nagging voice?

Why is the film ending on the Afghan balloon seller, rather than on Razieh and Ali?

What is the connection of the title 'The White Balloon' - the balloon seller has one remaining white balloon; Razieh wears a white dress; she wishes to buy a white gold fish.

A very satisfying film.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Macro after a long time

Luwak Coffee or Civet Coffee at Bandar Sastranegara Hussain Airport, Bandung

Afro Asian Museum, Bandung

The Floating Market, Lembang, Bandung

Seri Ater Air Panas Park - Hot Water Springs

Tangkuban Parahu - A Stunning Volcanic Crater, Bandung

Peace at D'Ream Resort - Night

Ranca Upas, Air Panas Theme Park, Bandung

Patenggang Lake. Bandung

Kawah Putih Volcanic Crater, Ciwidey, Bandung

Kawah Putih is a striking crater lake and tourist spot in a volcanic crater about 50 km south of Bandung in West Java in Indonesia.
Kawah Putih lake is one of the two craters which make up Mount Patuha, an andesiticstrato volcano (a "composite" volcano). Mt Patuha is one of numerous volcanoes in Java. Kawah Putih crater lake itself represents a relatively stable volcanic system with no records of significant activity since around 1600.



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