LFF 24th October

Just two films today, though the Square was buzzing with excitement as there were more famous films on other screens with stars and starlets getting the red carpet treatment.  Q&As getting longer too, so hoi poloi were queueing patiently/furiously/frantically to get to their seats; some desperately munching popcorn AND still some people were late!

Nouka Dobi, which translated means Boat Wreck, is a captivating Indian melodrama.  Georgeous locations and costumes, dreamy and slightly unsettling.  The very beginning is especially strange to a UK audience since there is a scene, then titles, more scenes then more credits, a glimpse more of the back-story then more information.  All of which is probably very interesting but mildly distracting – I want to get into the film and stay there, but maybe I am alone in this obssession.

[Pet hates: people scrabbling at the bottom of their popcorn baskets; mobile phones and people who CANNOT LAST THE WHOLE FILM WITHOUT EMPTYING THEIR BLADDER – especially when they have come in with a pint of lager/beer/water]

The other melodrama was Italian.  When the Night begins with a lovely woman (Claudio Pandolfi) travelling into the mountains in a coach; she is thinking about her previous visit with her young child, Marco (played by triplets).

In Nouka Dubi, the main characters are a dutiful but slightly wayward daughter (Raima Sen) and a dutiful but conflicted son.  When we meet them they are planning to marry, Ramesh has found the house they will live in but first he is urgently summonded to his father’s home.  There to his consternation he finds his father has arranged a marriage for him to the daughter of a poor widow, the soon-to-be bride is said to be unlettered but a good cook, housekeeper and companion.  This is not at all the future Ramesh (Jishhu Sengupta) has imagined and at first he rejects the notion out of hand.  However, on the way out he meets the mother who describes her terrible predicament and he relents.  The marriage ceremony is conducted with due festivity and solemnity, the gorgeously veiled bride (Riya Sen) follows her spouse round the fire seven times, etc. then they go to the honeymoon boats to start their married life in Kolkata.  But the Gods have other plans – in a storm the boats capsize and many people perish on the river that night.  Ramesh recovers to find himself on the riverbank; nearby is a beautiful woman in her bridal costume – and so making the assumption that they are the couple they begin their confused life together.

This beautiful film is based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore and is brought to the screen by the renowned Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh.  A tale of tragic loss and misunderstanding set in the opulent splendour of modern Bengal, surrounded by the palaces and temples, the rituals and beliefs of a fading past. By the end everyone has found greater and deeper knowledge of themselves and life, of each other and for each other – delightfully nuanced and superbly acted.

The Italian director, Christina Comencini, has produced a pearl of a film with When the Night.  This romantic melodrama is set in the high mountains and tells the story of a relationship that develops over a troubled period in Marina’s life when she is coping on her own with a fractious child in an isolated house on the edge of the high peaks.  Her landlord, the taciturn and brooding Manfred (Filippo Timi) is disturbed nightly by the little boy crying, they meet occasionally but generally when Marina is struggling with prams overloaded with shopping etc.  She meets one of his brothers at a local festival but Manfred’s hostility drives her away again.  One day, totally exhausted by broken nights and emotional turmoil, Marina falls deeply asleep while playing in the flat with Marco, Marco climbs on a stool and there is an accident – this event utterly changes her relationship with Manfred.

The location in the high mountains, the changeably dramatic weather and incipient danger always associated with mountains and snow adds to and augments the emotional plunges and leaps that this couple undergo during the course of this film.  The final symbolic shot of the cable cars sums it up perfectly.

The title comes from the opening of Tristan und Isolde, and there is something very Wagnerian in this fraught tale of imperfect motherhood and blighted families. The pressing social need for every mother to be Madonna Gloriosa not Madonna Dolorosa is fraught with tension: and with such high expectations there are social taboos and secrets bristling from every second of this film.

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