Jio MAMI 2016 Day four: Korean film The Wailing marks the best day of the festival so far
The fourth day at the 18th Jio MAMI 2016 Mumbai Film Festival began with someone asking me what is it about cinema that makes me want to watch five films a day during the festival.
I told the person the simple truth – that movies are the only way for people to express themselves in their truest form. And watching someone express so sublimely five times a day is only therapeutic to people like me who live in a country that constantly restricts one from expressing oneself fully without any inhibitions.
I also told the person another reason – that I get to eat overpriced stale popcorn and awful tasting exorbitantly priced sandwiches five times a day. That is a lot of fun. Because paying 250 rupees for a cheese sandwich is the only road to awe and PVR not allowing you to bring your own food from home is the only way to truly become a dedicated film buff.
My only hope is that the food being priced at ridiculous levels is a ploy by PVR to make you a better filmmaker. Once your stomach lining is completely destroyed by eating the oily food at its stalls, the pain you experience will help you gain some inspiration to write and direct a masterpiece.
Since I have no such ambitions to become the next Kurosawa and not enough bank balance to justify shelling out my monthly salary to shove things in my mouth that would reduce the number of days I spend on Earth, I decided to not eat lunch and find sustenance only in the magic of cinema. It was a good decision to make on what was by far the best day at the festival so far.
The Korean film The Wailing seen on the big screen is quite an astonishing experience. The rain soaked atmosphere and the eerie, sinister nature of the film’s narrative is quite a blast for film buffs who dig horror. What really surprises is that director Hong Jin Na squeezed in every horror staple element from ghosts, to exorcism, to zombies to devils to shamans into one coherent story.
It’s also laudable that this is not just a straightforward horror movie, but one that makes you use your brains to put the pieces together and solve the mystery long after you’ve seen the film. While not quite as ‘fun’ as the Farsi horror drama Under the Shadow, this is still benchmark film-making and a much needed justification for the horror genre to have bigger budgets.
The Egyptian film Clash, from director Mohamed Diab turned out to be a relentless, breathtaking, almost traumatic experience from start to end. Set a few days after the Arab Spring took Egypt by storm, the film jams us right into the heart of the pandemonium between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian army locked in a bloody war.
The film takes place entirely inside a police van which, over the course of the movie is filled with people from opposite sides of the camp and also people unrelated to either parties. The tension escalates to dizzying levels as conflicting ideologies and irony collide like two chainsaws kissing, while angry protestors outside the van are a constant threat.
The most amazing aspect of the film is that it manages to dig out some humor in the midst of all this chaos and the final fifteen minutes, swathed with green lazer beams turns the nightmare of furious protestors and certainty of death into a stage that resembles an EDM concert.
It’s also a testament to Diab’s filmmaking know how to be able to deliver a large scale thrilling ride as seen only from the small scale respective of a van – a bold choice given how it was at once a budgetary advantage and also a new way to depict an event that has been quite extensively chronicled in other feature films and documentaries.
Coming out of Clash I thought I needed to see a lighthearted romance next, so it was unnerving to find out how the next film Hounds of Love played out. An absolutely brutal Australian film from director Ben Young, we’re taken on a wild ride with a serial killer couple that kidnaps, rapes and tortures unsuspecting young folks and ultimately kills them and buries them in the nearby woods.
When their newest victim Vicki is picked up and subjected to a similar routine they find themselves turning against each other as the mother of the victim desperately tries tracking her location.
The singular most interesting aspect of the film is how it seamlessly shifts from a generic serial killer narrative to an introspective study of both characters and what makes them tick, all gelled together in a ticking clock plot mechanism to keep your hair at the back of your neck raised.
Emma Booth and Stephen Curry deliver some seriously terrific performances as the messed up kidnapper couple, and the dynamics between them contain the madness of the couple from Natural Born Killers and the cold unpredictability of the folks from Funny Games. With Snowtown, The Loved Ones and now Hounds of Love it’s clear that Australians really know how to make engaging films about crazy people brutally confining flawed characters and subjecting them to the worst possible nightmares.