Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Faith Trilogy (Dir. Ingmar Bergman)

I like the idea that when we are young, we see things (particularly pertaining to faith and religion) quite clearly, but as we grow into adulthood, the same view becomes as if looking through a glass darkly. Perhaps I like it because it resembles the contours of my relationship with faith. Did the same occur with Mehta, keeping in mind that she grew up in India and did a masters thesis on Hindu philosophy? She has mentioned in her interviews that Hinduism is about transformation and humaneness, yet this is not how it is manifested in the contemporary Hindu religious institutions that have resisted her films like no other element in India. Could this possibly have shaken her faith? Perhaps her relationship with religion (not spirituality) is like Bergman’s ambiguous treatment of the subject in the trilogy – God is light, love and a foreign language; but he/it is also incest, death and silence. In the midst of this doubt over faith, Mehta seems to choose individual choice and social justice over repression disguised as tradition. Besides the thematic links between the two trilogies, there are also certain similarities in the overall visual style and the incorporation of particular elements. According to Mehta, Bergman has influenced her to the extent that he has a deceptively simple style of telling a powerful story. This is certainly apparent in Water which has minimal dialogue and uncluttered yet moving scenes. One could argue the same is true for Earth where the personal, like the little girl’s breaking of plates in the opening scene and the later pulling apart of her doll are used to signal the magnitude of the larger story, that is, the portioning of the subcontinent. At the same time, the play of light and shadows, or outdoor and indoor light in Fire evokes the same sort of juxtaposition between liberation and repression as it does in Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light. Like in The Silence, the train/journeying figures as a metaphor for both creation and destruction, hope and despair, rebirth and death in Mehta’s films.

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