“In my film, ‘The Wife’s Letter’ I’m working on a project that symbolizes Tagore, and here I must say that in this film, his short story has been used as a prop; however the core essence is designed with Dali’s conscience.”
– Aneek Chaudhuri
By EJ Wickes
Image (above), Protagonist ‘X’ from ‘The Wife’s Letter’
The narrative begins with a reading of the first eight paragraphs of “A Wife’s Letter” by Rabindranath Tagore. The wife, Mrinal is expressing years of unhappiness in a letter to her neglectful husband while on a journey. Essentially she has left her husband and climbed out from under his abusive family’s thumbs. The letter is her Emancipation Proclamation.
This use of Tagore’s short story merely sets a starting point for the film’s direction and as we all know, it can never be an adventure unless the destination is unknown. Unexpectedly the filmmaker adapts the protagonist, X, as a variable in a mathematical equation who is suffering from schizophrenia. In this experiment a Leaf has been assigned to be a constant variable and X must be equal to that Leaf in order to validate language. According to Aneek, the film’s Director, he goes on to say:
“This is an attempt to prove that mathematics does not constitute emotions, sentiments and is comprising mere calculations; however, one’s life cannot be completely manipulated. Here, the protagonist travels through three worlds to discover himself trying to equate himself to the Leaf.”
The film delivers a magnificent visual experience. I found myself being less involved with the narrative than I was with the cinematography. In the film, Director Aneek Chaudhuri has X plodding through his everyday routines via different alter egos, in very long takes. I have to assume that this is a successful attempt to pull the viewer into the emotional structure of X and the mundane emptiness and regret that he feels in the absence of his wife.
Depression often has us reflecting and staring into the insignificant microcosms of life; the world that exists and makes up everything beyond our own existential being. Some of the most impactful scenes were those of a beetle crawling across the floor. The Leaf being slightly blown by the wind, almost as if it was struggling to be alive. The painterly effects transition to cinematography very effectively with simple manipulations of color and focus. The ballet scene was an apparition painted with flowing gestures of watercolors on wet paper.
A heavy Fine Art background is implied by the importance of each shot’s composition and perspective. Rembrandtesque lighting effects, sharing old and new world aesthetics, only add to the atmospheric quality and abstract nature of the film’s visual poetry. The soundtrack is composed of songs written by Tagore and the stringed instrumentals reference the influence of Dali as represented by his painting, “Pierrot tocant la guitarra” or “Pierrot Playing the Guitar”.
Deeper into the plot, the personification of X is heard to be answering Mrinal’s letter. This is the only time the original fable comes back into play in any literal sense. However by that time, the viewer has already been so immersed, it hardly matters.
METAMODERNISM IN FILM
The new proponents of Metamodernism define their perspective on the term to be more closely related to an amalgamation of feelings and experiences. Hence the reference to a “New Romanticism” as being more of a “structure of feeling” rather than a movement in art, ideology or a timeline through history. “The Wife’s Letter” seems to be a film that is constructed upon a framework of emotion and visual stimuli rather than being built upon an obsessively well structured or formulated screenplay. That said, Tagore’s story does provide a romantic foundation upon which to build an exquisite life study or love story, no matter how melancholy the outcome.
“The Wife’s Letter” is directed by Aneek Chaudhuri. The Cinematographers are Sougata Bhattacharjee and Aneek Chaudhuri. The Musical Director of Streer Potro is Saikat Chattopadhyay. The soundtrack consists of songs written by Rabindranath Tagore. The cast includes Kaushik Roy, Sanchari Dutta, Diganta Nag, Paromita Mukherjee, Dhiraj and Saikat Mukherji.
TEASER 1: BALLET SCENE
“Streer Potro” or “The Wife’s Letter”, is Aneek Chaudhuri’s most recent film. It is not literal adaptation of the story written by Rabindranath Tagore, nor a visual impression of Dali’s work. However the psychological and emotional impressions of both are used to set the tone for a surreal journey to three worlds by a schizophrenic person who is trying to equate language, love and life to a constant variable in his own existence.
“The Wife’s Letter” is set to make its mark in abstract filmmaking in India and Bengal. With a style all its own, “The Wife’s letter” has already entered the global spotlight and is destined to open doors for Indian arthouse film, internationally and here in the U.S.
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