Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mrinalini on the beach- Notes on one scene from ITI MRINALINI



"The film will be perfect if it stops to impose itself as the art of realism and become reality metamorphosed into art." (André Bazin on The River by Jean Renoir in his book JEAN RENOIR)


The scene in Aparna Sen´s most recent film takes place on a beach. We see Mrinalini (Konkona Sen Sharma)and her daughter Sohini (adapted by her brother and his girlfriend) sitting in the sand and watching the sky and the sea in the light close to sundown. The kind they watch is like they watch an over dimensional big screen. In Aparna Sen´s films like MR. AND MRS. IYER or in THE JAPANESE WIFE we often see people watching into a landscape like they are watching to an imagined screen as well like in this film.
They sing:
"In this infinite sky
My freedom lies in this glorious light
in this infinite sky.
My freedom lies in the dust of this earth
and blades of grass
in this infinite sky."
(quoted from the english subtitles from the DVD)

They stop singing and begin to talk after a small break of silence. In this moment of silence the camera circles half around them. The moment of harmony reveals as a fleeting moment.

The girl sits left, Mrinalini right. We see a man on a bicycle in front of the sea and in the depth of the image a fisher boat. As the film deals with the film business with lies and betrayal, this one of few scenes where the characters reveal honestly their inner feelings. As the film tells about filmmaking this is one of the scene where we see a "real film"
.
Mother and daughter talk about their relation ship. If the girl know that she is adopted or if the girl knows who her real mother is. As they watch to the sun, the sea, the sand and the sky like to the elements of their physical existence, they begin to recognize each other as child or mother.
This scene is placed in the film around the end of the last third and even though it is the most beautiful and most happiness evoking scene in the film, in the context of this film it is the most heartbreaking one. And we are always reminded in the "Leitmotiv" of this film, the memories of an aging actress who tries to commit suicide.
Later they hug each other. The mother promises to take the daughter (whose foster parents live in Canada) in an indian school.
The scene evokes in its subtle cosmic dimension not only Ozu´s BAKUSHU or Renoir´s THE RIVER, Aparna Sen´s playful kind to deal with continuity reminds me as well in Ozu. There is a cut and we see Mother and child walking on the beach from left to right. Even though the cut suggests at the first moment a logical time response, we see that they are different dresses, the girl in a red shirt, the mother now in a red Sari. When you are caught in simple dogmas of cinematic realism you can find this connection wrong. But  if you are still open for relying on your own intuition than you can see it as one of the most beautiful moments in the work of Aparna Sen. As Mother and daughter are now together in a colored harmony they seem closer to each other than in any other moment of this film.
As they walk on the beach and before they are leaving the frame on the right side they sing again:
"In this infinite sky
My freedom lies in this glorious light (..)

And once again, this scene is another flashback of the aging Mrinalini who writes her suicide note. But memories if  unhappy ones or like in this case a very rare happy one happen often without control.
This one cut who reveals this two persons suddenly in different clothes is not a moment like  it happened but a moment  how it appears in a memory.

As this wonderful scene is integrated in the whole architecture of this film building, corresponding with the parts before and after is one thing. At the same time at least in my memory this scene has as well a kind of independent life. It is the first thing coming to my mind when I think of ITI MRINALINI. I just have to remember the song "In this infinite sky" and the scene is very present in my mind.

This one scene is strong enough for my reason to love this film. And as this scene reveals the matter we are all build of, the water, the sky and the sun it also reveals the elements of the poetry of cinema.
Yes and in a way " My freedom lies in the glorious light in this infinite sky" is a song which is at all an access to the beauty and inspirations of the films by Aparna Sen.

Rüdiger Tomczak

The German version of this text will be published 2014/2015 in the final print issue of shomingeki.