Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Cornerhouse, 16 March 2012
This film, a rather loose adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, is of a piece with Winterbottom’s preceding The Killer inside Me.
Both films trace the trajectory whereby love segues into an abusive relationship, though here it is difficult to know exactly when the tipping point occurs.
Riz Ahmed gives a subtle performance as Jay, a spoilt rich kid who thinks there’s no cost to anything, while Frieda Pinto as Trishna is (to Western eyes, at least) curiously passive and submissive. It’s difficult to decide whether she’s a victim or complicit in her fate.
There’s a meandering travelogue feel to a fair portion of the film, though Winterbottom does capture something of the strangeness of India, an emerging economic power, yes, yet a country where the divide between poor and rich remains great. You also get the sense that within this culture a young woman from a poor family is prey.
However, some of the cultural references seems a little naïve or just for show. Perhaps there’s a point to Jay’s interest in the Kama Sutra. Still, to see him reclining on the sofa, reading The Upanishads, is a bit much. Not to say irrelevant.
The good parts more than make up for the occasional lapses, mind. It’s a fine film and essentially a kind of noir: a Bollywood Savage Night, you could say.