Monday, July 23, 2012

Trishna [2012]

MPAA (R) Roger Ebert (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
Roger Ebert's review -
Times of India -

Trishna, directed and screenplay by Michael Winterbottom is a remarkable transposition of Thomas Hardy's [IMDb] Victorian era novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles [IMDb][wikipedia] (originally set in England of the 19th century) but set in this film in contemporary India.  Indeed, so remarkable, creative and yet often spot-on faithful to the novel is this transposition that I would say that this is without question the best (largely English-language) movie that I've seen this year.   Yet since it was arguably released (at various film festivals) already in 2011 (though not in the United States or UK until 2012) it may not get the recognition that it deserves.

To appreciate the achievement here, honestly buy and read the book.  Yes, the Victorian novel that it is, it's over 500 pages, but it is worth the read and it will definitely stay with you (I read the book in high school and have never forgotten it).  Further with awestruck admiration I note here that EVERY PIVOTAL SCENE IN THE BOOK is both _creatively_ and _faithfully_ adapted in the film to its new time and setting.

What's the story about?  It's about double standards and a horribly unequal relationship between Trishna (the "Tess" character in the film, played here by Freida Pinto) who is a peasant girl, and Jay (a conflation of the two principal men in Hardy's novel, played in the film as a single character by Riz Ahmed) who is the son of a very rich (in the book a noble) man.  In current the film, Trishna is from a small non-descript town somewhere in the countryside of India, while Jay is the son of a rich Indian hotelier who actually had spent most of his youth living in London, England.

On a site-seeing trip back "to the old country," Jay and Trishna (both 20-something) meet, when he sees her dancing in her hometown's main square one evening as part of a local festival.  He runs into her some days later as he's leaving the town.  He becomes so entranced by her that he comes back to find where she lives and offers her family to hire her to work at one of his father's hotels for a salary that Trishna's family simply could not turn down.  But nothing, of course, comes "so easily."  The story un-spools in all its tragedy from there...

As a note to parents, I do believe that the film does deserve the R-rating (for sexuality, none explicitly shown, but a great deal implied).  Hence, your kids/teens really shouldn't go to see the film without your knowledge.  However, I do believe that the film would be a very good one to take your older teens to.  The film shows a fair amount of India, both urban and rural, which in itself is worth the viewing.   The film also offers families with older teens the opportunity to talk about both the Victorian Era and even double standards regarding both men vs women and rich vs poor, which continue to exist -- and not "just in India" but really across the world including the West -- to this day.


While "in theaters in major markets," many "Independent" / Foreign Films and Documentaries are  available for home viewing in the U.S. through the IFC Video On Demand service (type in your zipcode and cable provider to see if this service as available to you) or for download via services like Sundance Now and/or Itunes / Amazon Instant Video.  Eventually, these films become available for rent in the U.S. via NetFlix or   More obscure titles can also be found via Facets Multimedia's DVD Rental Service.

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