A world of wilful women

Voices of women rose clear, and above the rest, in films across genres at the 9th BIFFes

If cinema has a universal language, then the women in it play universal parts. A prism that split the many-shaded characters, saw women as devoted mothers, bereaved women, friends gone crazy, coming of age, exploring their sexuality, revelling in their free spirit, sometimes sublime, sometimes feisty.

If there was a takeaway from the 9th Bengaluru International Film Festival, it has got to be the smorgasbord of roles in films across countries. There is always the curiosity about how women are portrayed in “their” cinema, and this edition BIFFes outdid itself.

Women as mothers, was a recurring leitmotif. Between Sea and Land (Colombia) had us go through a gamut of emotions as an ageing and doting (almost overprotective) mother lavished her love and attention on her grown bed-bound son with muscular dystrophy, in times of harsh poverty. Her ultimate “letting go” is perhaps a quandary we wish no mother with challenged children faces.

Destiny (China) showed the desperation, and to what lengths a persistent mother can go to ensure her autistic child is accepted at a regular school - a very restrained performance that demanded empathy and understanding.

The Innocents (Poland) looked at the real-life events of World War II, and women as victims of war crimes. There were nuns at the crossroads of faith and motherhood as a result of being raped by Soviet soldiers. Those who embrace motherhood and reject faith, vice versa, and those who keep both....the subtle drama unfolds with a Red Cross doctor coming to their rescue, and a compelling bond of protective womanhood forming between them.

Indivisible (Italy) looks at the inseparable sisterhood and the coming of age of conjoined twins, who want to break out from being used as a freak show by their parents to make money. The Yin and the Yang, the rebel and the conformist, the one who wants to be free and the one who is dependent on the sister, the optimist and the pessimist - the constant conflict took us through their travails, at the end of which they are together while still being apart.

Sami Blood (Sweden) traces the story of a Sami girl - one of the rare indigenous people of Scandinavia. The hatred hurled at her people for being different, makes her want to break away from their traditional reindeer-herding family. Forced by the government to go to a Swedish boarding school to be taught the “proper” ways, she drives herself to become like her teacher. The film exploring young love, growing up, getting away, wanting to make it big, and a reluctant return years later to seek forgiveness from a sister she abandoned, made us feel for the many women who go through such upheavals in life.

Like Crazy (Italy) was a surprisingly cheerful break that looked at the thin line between sanity and insanity, and the friendship between two women who break free, “looking for a little bit of happiness” outside the mental asylum they are confined to. Again, the maternal mode kicked in, making for a very touching story of a child separated from the mother. But the film that said a thousand things to us was In Love with Lou (Germany), based on the life of the feisty Russian philosopher, writer, and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salome, who argued with Nietzsche and became a student of Freud.

The movie is a delightful take on feminism in the early 1900s that engaged us in arguments that stemmed from Lou’s hunger for knowledge of life’s complexities, her demand for education and equality, her edgy idea of choosing a platonic philosophical fellowship with two men rather than love, marriage, and children and the seemingly wild life of one of Europe’s most influential women. Something about the woman who refused to be told how to live her life struck a chord with women watching her life play out, over a 100 years later at a cinema hall in Bengaluru.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:50:49 PM |

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