Thursday, December 10, 2009
IFAC #10: Antarmahal, or: I need a rewatch.
Can I review a movie I barely remember details from? Antarmahal: Views of the Inner Chamber (2005) is the only Bengali film I've seen so far, and my reasons for viewing it were perhaps a tad too fangirly for the sort of artsier feature it ended up being, considering it's directed by Rituparno Ghosh.
Jackie Scroff plays an oppressive head of a rich household in 19th century Bengal. He has a wife (Rupa Ganguly) put decides to get a new, younger one (Soha Ali Khan), much to the older wife's discontent. Being the douchebag he is, he also wants to suck up to the Brits by replacing the face of Goddess Durga with the face of the Queen, and hires a non-Bengali sculptor (Abhishek Bachchan, with eyeliner!) to do the job.
As you can imagine by considering the fact it's a Bengali art film, the pace is slow and shots linger on seemingly unimportant details. I'll just come right out and say it: I may understand these sorts of films but when I watched it, I was far too lazy to figure it out. However, in an interesting way, the film still delivered. Rupa Ganguly's performance was excellent and incredibly intense, erotic but completely silent chemistry between Abhishek and Soha made the film worth watching.
Still, as far as anything else goes, it's hard to grasp what the film maker was actually getting at. The film has been described as graituitously erotic. Besides the interest between Abhishek and Soha, there is Rupa Ganguly's character whose sleazy husband makes her satisfy Brahmin priests. He also tries to sleep with Soha's character, also with a priest present in order to perform the necessary rites to make sure she becomes pregnant with a son for him, but she keeps rejecting him.
Even after I finished watching I knew I needed to rewatch to really sink my teeth into this movie. But then, years went by, and I never bought the DVD to have that rewatch. I just didn't care, I suppose. Some art films feel like they reward the effort of rewatches, the effort of picking them apart. Others just fail to impress as movies, regardless of artistic intent. Antarmahal always seemed more of the latter, and not enough of the first.