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"Mystic River"

"Mystic River" ... moving parable.

CLINT EASTWOOD'S latest work, ``Mystic River," releasing in Chennai 15 months after it was premiered at Cannes in the summer of 2003 is a powerful piece of cinema. Riveting, yet deeply disturbing, this film works on several layers to capture and comment on the sheer ambiguity of human ties, and how such mystifying moments can lead to brutal destruction of life.

The movie, much like the baffling ripples of a river, depresses you with the abnormality of human mind: child rape, murder and revenge. Eastwood pans his camera across an Irish neighbourhood in Boston to draw us into a dilemma; at the end of this visual voyage, we are left distraught, for we do not know who the victor is and who the vanquished, who is innocent and who is guilty. There is strange blurring of images and thoughts, perhaps in the same way that a river foxes you with its undercurrents.

Eastwood directs ''Mystic River'' with a firm grip on the narrative. Dave, played marvellously by Tim Robbins, portrays the terrible pain of having been molested as a child, and the misfortune of being mistrusted and betrayed as an adult. Sean Penn as Jimmy offers a brilliant performance (which got him the Oscar for the Best Actor in February 2004) as the father of a vivacious 19-year-old girl, victim of an unfortunate circumstance.

When daughter Katie dies a day before she is to elope with her boyfriend, Jimmy is so grieved that he vows to catch the killer before the cops do. Penn's emotional scenes are so extraordinary that one is happy to find him growing from movie to movie. His role in ``Dead Man Walking" was certainly classic.

More of the story here would mean a little less of drama for the viewer. But ''Mystic River'' curls up like a mass of weeds that underlines the darkness of a tragedy, nay many tragedies.

Eastwood and his screenwriter, Brian Helgeland, have been faithful to the sense of place that makes Dennis Lehane's book, on which ``Mystic River" is based, a superior piece of crime fiction. Much of the dialogue has been taken directly from the pages of the tome: the sordid, fatalistic drawl of a rather uncouth suburb of Boston has not just been retained, but fortified to produce an almost sensational hiss.

``Mystic River'' is bound to leave one with a sense of sadness bordering on pain and bitterness. Eastwood has undoubtedly created a moving parable, which does not exactly entertain — it is not meant to, in any case — but which ought to provoke audiences into higher realms of debate. A word of caution here: this work is not for those below 18, and for those too who look at cinema as merely an instrument of amusement.


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