Diego Lerer checked in from Buenos Aires to see the world premiere of the experimental film Carnival from India.
It is a crowded day in the West-Bengal city of Kolkata and the sounds and the noise generated by a Hindu festival (and the imposing and beautiful soundtrack music) is almost overwhelming. There is no actual dialogue in the film — intertitles serve as the only form of verbal communication, as cinema used to do well before The Artist arrived —, but you can sense the pulse of the city, its intensity and how the surroundings affect our protagonist, Babu, a young man who walks around the streets, sensing the city and — at the same time — having to deal with some family issues after the death of his mother.
In scenes shot in black & white — there used to be black & white, too, well before The Artist — you can see his difficult relationship with his father and the longing for his dead mother, and the questions that arise from their awkward meetings. In a few elegant and at the same time chaotic scenes, Madhuja Mukherjee and cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay create a symphony of noise and silences, of isolation and community, of pleasure and sadness.
This experimental one hour Indian film is surprising in the best ways, always changing directions and rhythms, very musical in terms of editing and juxtapositions, and sometimes absurdly funny, or at least confusingly strange for the Western viewer. Coming from the world of short films and video installations, Mukherjee is able to create a world full of color and intensity but, at the same time, exaggerating the colors and sounds through editing, photography and even moments and scenes of stop-motion.
For him this could be a journey of rediscovery of the city he grew up in and misses. For the main character Babu returning to those images and sounds, traditions and ceremonies, is way to come to terms with his own past. For the viewer it is a journey of discovery, a place where the visual tricks of cinema and those from the real world, merge into each other with fascinating results.
Carnival (Madhuja Muhkerjee, India 2012, 61')