India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975)
Poetical tale of Anne-Marie Stretter, the wife of a French diplomat in India in the 1930s. At 18 she had married a French colonial administrator and went with him on posting to Savannakhet, Laos.
Visually stunning and populated with long shots of almost still life or still lives, India Song is rhythms only by its voice overs and the musical tracks. It plays as bits of a life of boredom into Asia that its screenwriter/director Marguerite Duras has probably took from her own experience in the Eastern World. It is also a piece of History that reminds the role of the Colonialism countries in the World. Just like the scenes in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux with the French living in Vietnam. They are a strange oddity of upper-class in such a poor and distant world.
India Song is the kind of film that gives lots of time and space for its viewer to think, contemplate, get immersed in the story. However, the contemplative element of the film reminds us of how a film can be that much slow and, in fact, almost standing still. As a self proclaimed film historian and movie critic, I had my share of slow and contemplative films but in this case there are few camera movements and long, long, did I mention long takes? Well, there are many long takes in this film. It is beautiful to look at and a lot of style in the way it is done.
But, it is so slow that it plays as watching a painting and reading a realist novel of the early last century. The composition of the frames must have been studied for weeks and just like Carl Th. Dreyer I'm sure every movement was synchronised and rehearsed. India Song, plays as a novel that was written to be felt by its words and filled with pretty pictures of grand compositions.
As a whole, India Song feels like a artsy film that brought a few number of viewers in and a fewer number out at the end. Has my first encounter with Marguerite Duras, I'm not sure if I'll ever get excited and jolly about seeing another of her films. Not that it was bad or anything but it was a demanding film that uses its own storytelling way and narratives.