Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My Favorite films of the year 2017

1.-Song to Song, Terrence Malick, USA: 2017

2.-Voyage of Time - Life´s Journey, Terrence Malick, USA: 2016

3.-Aus einem Jahr der Nichtereignisse (From a year of Non events), René Frölke, Ann-Carolin 
Renninger, Deutschland: 2017

4.-Songs of Revolution, Bill Mousoulis, Greece/Australia: 2017

5-Loving Lorna, Annica and Jessica Karlsson, Sweden: 2017

6-The Third Breast, Anamika Bandopadhyay, India/USA: 2017

7-A Death in the Gunj, Konkona Sensharma, India: 2016

8-Ekjon Kobir Mrityu (Death of a Poet), Abu Sayeed, Bangladesh: 2017

9-Diamond Island, Chou Davy, Cambodia/France: 2016

10-Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt, USA: 2015

11-Loving, Jeff Nichols, USA: 2016

12-Maman Colonel, Dieu Hamadi, Congo: 2017

13-Mon rot fai, Sompot Chidgasornpongse, Thailand: 2016

14-Dieste (Urugay), Heinz Emigholz, Deutschland: 2017

15-Dahlienfeuer, Stefan Hayn, Deutschland: 2016

respectfully mentioned: 
-A Ghost Story, David Lowery, USA: 2017
-Elle, Paul Verhoeven, France: 2016
-Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, USA: 2017
-La La Land, Damien Chazelle, USA: 2016
-Barrage, Laura Schroeder, Luxemburg/Belgien/Frankreich: 2017

5 favorite shortfilms:

1.Aaba, Amar Kaushik, India: 2016 

2.Trapeze, Shamik Ghosh, India: 2017 

3-Nie wieder Klug (No more smart again), Stefan Hayn, Deutschland: 2015

4.Engiteng Larok Lukunya (Black-Headed Cow, Elisabeth Nichols, Tanzania: 2016 

5-Min Homosyster (My Homo sister), Lie Hitula, Sweden/Norway: 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Notes on Ekjon Kobir Mrityu (Death of a Poet) by Abu Sayeed, Bangladesh: 2017

Abu Sayeed is one one of a few directors from Bangladesh whose films were shown on some international film festivals. His newest film Ekjon Kobir Mrityu is not only one of his most willful one. Three different kind of films came into my mind: first Citizen Kane by Orson Welles, Geschichtsunterricht (History Lesson) by Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet and the films by Marguerite Duras, her Aurelia-Steiner-films and Le Mains Negatives (The negative Hands). The puzzle-structure of Citizen Kane which recapitulate a human life, the work with text and images like Duras and Straub/Huillet seem to be united in Abu Sayeed´s most experimental film.

The film goes through several transformations. At the beginning there is a famous poet who suffers under insomnia. He has a strange dream about a woman dressed in white, a kind of death angel. On the next morning his son finds the poet dead. With the death of the only visible person, the narration takes only place in the off. While the family is busy to arrange the funeral ceremony, including to transport his corps to the place of his funeral, newspapers and television news are preparing special features on the death of this poet. What we see and about what the invisible acteurs are talking goes different ways. Several time we see a huge printing press and with a bit of imagination it sounds a bit like an analog film projectior. A human life has expired. Ekjon Kobir Mrityu becomes now what remains of a human identity. First of all we see the devices who conserve the collective memory, TV-cameras, audio tapes and the printing press. The dialogues by the acteurs which remain invisble are dealing from personal dialogues between the members of the family, interviews with his colleagues or contemporaries, editors and journalists are providing special features for TV and newspaper. Sometimes we hear dialogues from a phone conversation. If a dialogue takes place in a newspaper editorial office or in a TV-studio we see only fragments of persons. They remain totally anonymous. These dialogues from the off are providing the film with a kind of narration which will never be illustrated through images. This is exactly what Abu Sayeed´s film has to do with Duras`Aurelia Steiner-films and her Les Mains Negatives.

The heart of the film is an extremely long car ride on a street which is literally cut through the concrete and datable landscape of Bangladesh – but also through the whole film. There are traffic jams. Several construction places are visible. It is a journey through a disgraced and polluted landscape. When these car travels remind me in Straub/Huillet´s Geschichtsunterricht than because they are pure traces of reality which happens outside the limited frame and which remain equal to the element of fictive narration. In Straub Huillet´s film it was the real Rome of the 1970s and in Abu Sayeed´s film it is the presence the real landscape of Bangladesh. And it is exactly the collision of reality and fiction which gives this film a nearly dreamlike quality. The more prosaic the film becomes the more it inspired my imagination.

Ekjon Kobir Mrityu is a poetic film essay which works on several levels. First of all it tells about the point when a private life has expired and migrates first to the memories of the loved ones and later to the more complex collective memory of a society. As the organic and the spiritual life of the poet has lapsed, the film tells more and more about the remains. It is a little truck which has to transport the corps a long way. The printing press refers not only to the newspapers but as well to the printed words of the poet which remain like crystallized traces of his life. How his family deals with the loss and how the representatives of public life deals with a collective memory, the film is always looking for the relationship between the material and spiritual aspect of human lives. As film is, like Godard once said, “always a documentary about the visible things in the world”, Abu Sayeed´s Ekjon Kobir Mrityu is such a “documentary about the visible things” but it detects the traces of a fleeting human life and it´s poetry. At the end a poem of the dead poet is recited and it is about the beauty of stars. As stars are often subject of poetry they are also evident as the fusion reactor where all the elements arise we are finally made of. Abu Sayeed´s admirable film is as well a wise and exciting essay on cinema, it´s material but also it´s poetic and spiritual aspects.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Notes on Voyage of Time - Life´s Journey, by Terrence Malick, USA: 2016


This is one of three versions of this project. The Imax-version i(narrated by Brad Pitt) s only 40 minutes long (and it seems to be rather a different film than another version) and there is a third one as long as Life´s Journey and projected with Live-music ( which is considered as Malick´s preferred version). The version Life´s Journey wonderfully narrated by Cate Blanchett (and the only which is available for me now – and that only thanks to the French Blue Ray -Release).

Another thing always confuses me: Voyage of Time is often mentioned as a heir of Malick´s legendary Project Q, another epic on the history of the world which he began and abandoned decades ago. After all what I have heard and read about this project, The Tree of Life refers as much to this Project Q as Voyage of Time. Both films are nurtured by this abandoned unfinished project. Considering Voyage of Time, I asked myself if this, Malick´s only non narrative film about birth and death of the world can work without the extreme dynamic of The Tree of Life between a very personal, even autobiographical inspired family story and the history of the universe. In a surprising way and despite its resemblance with the formation scene in The Tree of Life, Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey works on its own. It is not only a great companion piece for The Tree of Life, but also to most of his more recent films. The cosmic perspective is one important but only one of several different currents in his last 5 films which are best compared with complex living organisms. The fatal fashion among a lot of critics to ridicule these last films is the only unpleasant implication whenever a new film by America´s greatest living filmmaker is released.

As Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey (which I call for now the “Cate Blanchett”-Version) is the second new film by Malick I saw this year, and because of that 2017 will be a film year to remember. Song to Song is still very warm in my memory and it grew after every time I saw it.
Even though the “Cate Blanchett”- version is the only version I could see, it is hard to imagine a finer narrator than Cate Blanchett. It is like a recitation of a poem and a good example of what Christopher Nolan calls “the complex relationship between images and sound” (and in this case the narration included) The text often begins with Mother as an abstraction of this All.

As an admirer of his films since The New World, the biggest challenge was for me in Life´s Journey to get used to deal the lack of Lubezki`s permanently moving camera. Just alone the collaboration between Malick and Lubezki belongs to the most inspiring ones between a director and a cinematographer.

Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey is recognizable as a recent film by Terrence Malick but it looks also like a kind of missing link between Malick´s early films from the 1970s and his films from up to 1998. It is his most scripted film since Days of Heaven but another aspect which distinguished it from other more recent films by Malick, is it´ essayistic aspect. It is like we see a typical film by Malick from an engrossed angle. Blanchett, the invisible narrator is something like a hybrid between Job quoted in The Tree of Life and the Pocahontas from the New World but also an abstraction of the always searching Malick-characters. The text is even rather structured in exact pointed verses evokes doubt, questions and tries to find orientation in the face of gigantic cosmic processes compared with the short life span of a human being.While music and words are references to culture rooted in human visions of the world, the images of exploding stars, cosmic dust cosmic gas and the giant natural forces hint to a world which existed long before human consciousness and probably will still there when all traces of culture are gone. Despite a certain opulence Malick´s first approach in essayistic non-narrative cinema reminds me in Marguerite Duras´ Les Mains Négatives. Both films work with this “complex relationship” of image and over voice narration and both films are dealing with the nakedness of men in contrast to the forces of nature. Like the nameless man who lived 30000 years ago in Les Mains Négatives, we are in Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey exposed to front of huge physical and chemical processes. In Malick´s films everything is exposed to the natural but also the socio cultural history of the human world, that includes his protagonists, here even the invisible narrator, us and Malick himself. At least in the use of over voice narration, Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey is deeply connected to his extraordinary films since his comeback with The Thin Red Line.

Blanchett´s over voice narration with its long pauses correlate with the rhythmic appearance of total darkness between the images and structure the whole film like in verse.
Where comes the voice of Cate Blanchett from? In this film literally all things begins or comes out of the darkness and they will disappear in it at the end. The newborn sun has to assert its light against clouds of dark dust. The film celebrates at the same time the victory of the light over darkness as the basic condition to the evolution of life but at the same time for cinema itself.

Malick´s famous over voices are here reduced on one single female voice and it is for most parts of the film the only human reference point in the vastness of cosmic processes.
Mother you walked with me before there was a world, before there was day or night.”
This is the opening sentence of the film which literally comes out of the darkness. The reason that Malick is often blamed by superficial critics as esoteric is a result of a disastrous ignorance of how Malick works with the visible and traceable matter of the world and cinema as the visualization of it but also with poetic abstraction and religious moment as possibilities of interpreting the world. Finally science, religion and poetry are never opposites in Malick´s films. As the film´s narration is like a poetic monologue which goes its own way. Sometimes science and poetry come together, sometimes not. Some aspects of my fascination for the films by Terrence Malick, I can describe, others come over me like a natural force.

Between the moments of the foundation of the universe and the evolution of life, there are small moments of coarse grained documentary clips about groups of people from cultures all over the world, mostly people in despair, refugees, extreme poor people or people in distress.Even a burning landscape will be shown. It refers to another aspect of the films by Terrence Malick, pain and mourning. That can be caused by natural events but also by these human civilizations.

Mother, will you abandon me?”
The text becomes sometimes a prayer and poetic abstraction at the same time but it is also crucial for Terrence Malick who does not only celebrate the life but who also reminds us in the vulnerability of life.
We remember how Brad Pitt describes Malick´s work on The Tree of Life like: “I call him an imperfectionist. He finds perfection in imperfection. He is like a documentarian that´s just waiting for the moment to happen (...) (Q&A with Brad Pitt on The Tree of Life) In its last consequence, this imperfectionism means for Malick the highest artictic freedom imaginable.

It is interesting that at least compared with the legendary Project Q or the epic The Tree of Life, Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey seems to me much more “unfinished” than anything else Malick has done despite the presence of the mighty IMAX images.And it is not the first time that seemingly limitations are actually the most inspiring. The magic, the whole richness of a film by Terrence Malick enfolds very often after several watchings. I remember there was a critic (obviously from the category Malick-hater) who ridiculed the scene with the first men who are moving naked through the landscape. One has to be quite demented to find this moment ridiculous. It does not only refer to Malick´s The New World but it is also the most essential expression in Malick´s work of the above mentioned vulnerability of human life. In all its opulence, in all its cinematic attractions, Malick always goes back to the nakedness of mankind confronted with a new culture and the still mystic power of nature.

It is not just a film on birth being and decline of the world, it is an offering to get an idea about this process through many perspectives. There are documented and created images, the music and the over voice narration. The montage integrates all these elements but keeps them as own units. Despite the use of Imax images, special effects (digital and analog) in the cinema of Terrence Malick, the whole complex cinematographic apparatus will always be a, imitation of our senses, a perfect one but still an imitation.
One of the seemingly least spectacular but very moving moments, – like so often in a film by Malick –occurs near the end. A lonely girl plays on a lawn. In the background we see modern contemporary buildings. It could have been a scene from The Tree of Life, To the Wonder or anything Malick made in the last years. This landscape seems very triste but the child seems to be so involved in its own imagination, an imagination we all had once, we all forgot so often and a film can often bring these lost mood back to our mind. In the background we hear the typical North American train signal. A shot of another girl, playing with a group of children in a strangely deserted urban landscape. A detail shot of a girl´s profile, the ear appears in a close up. It is an image of a human being who experiences the world with all her senses, theses senses depending on her physical existence. We remember from the beginning a close up of a female face focused on the eye and another shot of a close up of a reptil´s eye. My description how Malick always tracks back the most beautiful visions to the physical world might sound a bit sober but it is part of his unique poetical concept of cinema. The little girl´s ear remains in my memory like the huge physical and chemical processes which formed the universe and the landscapes of the earth. (1)

A last and small chapter deals with the decline of the universe, the death of the sun and its planets and finally the end of all things. I remember the moment when the family tragedy in The Tree of life turns into this amazing sequence of the birth of the universe. I remember how much some people were irritated by this but I was sure from the first time I saw it that it was placed exactly where it belonged, right after a shot on the devastated mourning mother and as a visual echo of the job quotation from the beginning. Here in Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey, Malick offers not only his complex relationship between image sound and spoken word but also between science and faith, between a factual and a poetic vision of the world, between the matter and what it evokes in our mind and soul. The last master who approached such thing was Jean Renoir in 1951 with The River.
As we see images of the dying sun who burns our planet to ashes, the over voice paraphrases these moment in a poetical abstract but nevertheless very moving text:
The shadows flee ashore,
Time goes back to her source.
(We see a Black Hole)
Mother, I take your hands.
I dream no more.”

The last image shows a clouded sky until it sinks back into the darkness of the ending credits. The “intervals” of darkness in Voyage of Time-Life´s Journey is close to the clay formed from the bottom of Renoir´s The River. The statues of gods and goddesses formed out of clay are brought back to the river after the ceremonies where it becomes again mud on the river´s bottom.

What remains is a more simple truth: in only 6 years Terrence Malick has released his 5 most beautiful films. And always when the last scoffs, slating reviews or misunderstandings caused by blind ideological prejudice fade away, all of these wonderful 5 last films are already turning into true classics of the cinema of the 21st. Century.

Rüdiger Tomczak


(1) It is not enough for me to be astonished about this film or to be impressed by it. There is so much more what is evoked in me by this work. Malick uses a lot of artifices. But the amazement and the emotion evoked by these artifices seems to me something that Malick is sharing with us. There is no moment in this film which I can imagine as something different as something real felt or experienced. Not till then – I imagine- Malick confides these experience, these perceptions or probably some of his own memories and  experiences to the apparatus of film making. While seeing this film and despite my awareness of these instruments which record, conserve and visualize -  these recorded moments seem to dissolve away themselves from them. This feeling for the authenticity of every single moment in The Tree of Life or his previous films The Thin Red Line and The New World are shining much brighter than all the complex and imposing instruments used in this film I would like to call „The Malick-Paradox”. (from my text on The Tree of Life)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Notes on A Death in the Gunj, by Konkona Sensharma, India: 2016

you and I are close, we intertwine; you may stand on the other side of the hill once in a while, but you may also be me while remaining what you are and what I am not.”
Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism

A moment in the first 20 minutes of the film, a seemingly unimposing scene: A young man called Shutu takes an old pullover which once belonged to his recently deceased father. He smells on it an finally puts it on. Later as the film proceeds we will realize that this scene carries already the DNA of the whole film. For now there is nothing more to know that he is distressed by his grieve and very very lonely with it.

It was just a day before the screening in Berlin when I learned by accident that Konkona Sensharma´s A Death in the Gunj one of the films I was waiting for in this year, was shown in my city during an Indogerman Festival. I took a deep breath because I almost missed this note. The excitement has a long history. It was her performance in Shonali Bose´s Amu which lead me to Mr. And Mrs Iyer by Aparna Sen and with that to all the glory to her mother´s work as a director. Konkona Sen Sharma became one of my favorite actresses, Aparna Sen one of my favorite film directors alive. As much about her family.

The morning after the screening I read again Anjan Dutt´s enthusiastic review of A Death in the Gunj. Strangely the film evoked in me in another kind but likely strong my personal echo of the 1970s like Dutt´s masterpiece Dutta Vs Dutta – despite the visible specific hints to a country and culture strange to me. I mean this dynamic between the perception of the strangeness of this culture and at the same time the recognition of the universality of human behavior. The leather jacket of Ranvir Shorey evoked quite a déya vu in me and I almost had this specific smell of leather in my nose. And between what the film is and what it evokes in me, a kind of resonant cavity arises for me. As accidental as it is, I realized on my way home that Shutu is exactly of my generation and there are some parts of him that I and probably a lot of male spectators will recognize if they like it or not. Quite a mixture of feelings are flooding my mind like in one of these heavy bizarre dreams between desire, fear and depression.

The opening of the film is a mystery which will dissolved at the end of the film and which gives the film from the beginning a subliminal suspense. Two men are looking into a boot of their car at a corps which remains invisible to us. As we see them from the perspective of the unknown dead, it is a ghostly non-human perspective. Soon the film opens a flashback seven days before and tells this in exactly 7 chapters. We have no idea what will happen but we are sure something will happen.

A group of city people consisting of family members and friends arrive at a former Anglo-Indian town to spend holiday in one of these old houses. The location seems already engrossed and nearby there are tribal people. For now the film remembers me in Satyajit Ray´s masterpiece Aranyer Din Ratri mixed with a subtle suspense. Without knowing where the film will lead us the slight suspense originated from the opening sharpens our attention to even the smallest detail. The group of people which has just arrived are neither bigger nor smaller than life just perceptible enough for us to connect with them. But as the film proceeds, the holiday idyll reveals small cracks, very small at the beginning but steady growing. The growing doubt that nothing is what it seems causes concern. The protagonists kill time with parlor games, drinking and macabre jokes mostly on the cost of the young sensitive Shutu. One of these subtle but nevertheless disturbing signs is the attitude of the city people towards their servants. As a tribal dance is like a welcomed tourist attraction the contempt of the city people towards the servants is revealed but also the other way around. For the servants the city people are just annoying strangers.

In several interviews, Sensharma always mentioned her empathy for Shutu, because “Men are often victims of the patriarchal system itself”. In her film Shutu will be teased at the beginning than bullied and finally he will be even beaten and hurt. The physical injuries caused by one of these stupid horse plays are visible, the mental ones only perceptible in his face the camera explores and in his posture.
The ensemble of characters are like a color palette of possibilities of human behavior concerted with each other: Tillotama Shome and Kalki Koechlin, two conflictive women or the conflict between the nearly unchained macho Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) and the young sensitive almost androgynous Shutu (Vikrant Massey), to mention some of them. In this nowhere land between the adults and a little bored girl girl called Kana, there is Shutu placed. All together this group is something like a kaleidoscope of different human types.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. (Marcel Proust)

The former Anglo-Indian town itself appears like a nowhere land between city and countryside, between culture and nature, the always present nature which is already reconquering this man-made location. And between the human definition of rules, gender or power and submission the nameless undefined presence of nature is perceptible. The conditioned human culture appears sometimes like a prison.
When some of the adult men Nandu or Vikram are trying to “toughen up” the fragile Shutu, their motivation is based on this imposed darwinian understanding of nature, a man-made interpretation of nature. The film itself suggests rather a separation or an alienation between men and nature. There is rather an indifferent coexistence between men and nature. In some of these intense cinema scope-images we see the mighty forest and a tiny street. Most of the characters do not have an eye for this beauty, but it often seems this nature watches them. There is an uncanny encounter between Shutu( who falls into a traphole) and a wolf. It is not more than a short eye contact but nevertheless one of the most mysterious moments in this film. We realize that the biggest part of the world which we captured in words lead an existence of its own. And finally the conditioning in which we define the world separates us from nature.

Mimi (Kalki Koechlin) seduces Shutu twice. At first when she is very drunk. Her behavior is a mirroring of both, Vikram who takes what he wants but in her oppressed needs as well of Shutu. She calls him “very beautiful, almost like a girl.” The first seducing scene is symptomatic for the film, an combination of revealing and indicating. The second seducing scene takes place on a grave yard, literally between the dead. sex once in Terrence Malick´s Song to Song poetic defined as “The flame of life” appears here in Sen Sharma´s film as a naked reflex against the fear of death or at least between the wrong persons at the wrong place and wrong time. None of Sensharma´s characters are explicit evil but most of them are careless and unable to feel empathy. This affair triggers a chain of events which lead to the film´s stirring finale which I can´t reveal but which is – still in my system.

The end credits are rolling on a street surrounded by the forest at night seen from the rear window of a driving car, a travelling shot which is in its spookiness evoking in me memories in Murnau´s Nosferatu. Literally the last traces of light are sinking into darkness of the final fade out. This often underrated ritual of cinema, this transition between the film projection and the reality is here as well a little piece of art in its own right
This a very versatile film, playing with different traditions and genres of cinema. The suspense is as decent as the film music but strong enough to engross us. A Death in the Gunj is as well an example of an excellent use of this cinema scope format. This format once invented for films bigger than life in the competition against the rising Television in the 1950s and later used rather for artistic visions, especially by the Japanese since the late 1950s. Sensharma uses in her film this format in a nearly perfect dynamic between opulence (visible especially in the wonderful landscape shots) and intimacy, between chamber piece and landscape panorama.

A Death in the Gunj is not only an impressing film debut feature. It is still echoing in my mind. In simple words – good films like A Death in the Gunj are rooted in the glorious history of cinema, enriching the presence of it and at the same time they offering new perspectives for it´  future.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Monday, July 3, 2017

Notes on The Third Breast by Anamika Bandopadhyay, India/USA: 2017

If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred.”
(Walt Whitman)

At the beginning, ocean waves on a beach in Goa, a popular region for Indians and tourists from abroad. The over voice commentary of Anamika Bandopadhyay tells about this place and the pleasure of drinking coconut water. She recalls the stories told by her grandmother. On the beach we see an old woman and a young girl with sun glasses. For a short moment it appears like an idyll evoked by a Marcel Proust- like memory and caused by coconut water, the pendant to the Madeleine, a French pastry occurring in Proust´s novel In Search of lost times.

The second part of the film´s introduction is a harsh contrast: News headlines report about the gang raping case in Delhi from December 16, 2012 which lead to the death of the victim, a young woman. Images of angry protesting Indian women follow. In the following months after this tragic event a series of gang raping all over the country followed. The public finally took attention on rape cases even though they happened as well long before December 2012. It was evident that the perpetrators felt very safe without the fear being indicted.

Anamika Bandopadhyay mentions that there is no sex education (maturation curriculum) in Indian schools. Her son absolved it already at the age of 11 in an American school. The Indian government rejects the idea of sex education in schools because they say it is “against the Indian tradition”. In Germany for example (which is far from being a pioneering country in this case) sex education in schools was from up around 1975 already obligatory and no biology teacher could refuse to teach sex education anymore.
What is the “Indian tradition” asks Anamika Bandopadhyay and her journey to different places in and periods of Indian history begins.

In the films by Anamika Bandopadhyay I have seen so far, it is impossible to separate the poet from the scholar or the human right activist. Like in her previous films Red (2008) and 1700 Kelvin (2012) she is completely involved.

The Third Breast is a film essay about the contradictions in the Indian culture history of sexuality. On one hand in modern India a total ban of sex in culture and education, on the other hand a brutal oppression of women. As rape is by politicians often underplayed as accidental events, it appears soon that it is caused by a misogyny deeply rooted in the history of colonial and post colonial India. With her questions, for example “What is the Indian tradition?, the filmmaker goes back to the distant past of India. Interviews with different people, scientists, activists or young students give hints to a deeper truth of “Indian tradition”. One of the essential elements of the filmmaker´s research is the comparison between a relatively liberal attitude towards sexuality in the medieval India and its absurd oppression in modern India. This ancient attitude or let me use knowledge of sexuality is documented in old texts, paintings, sculptures and poetry. At least the erotic sculptures in some temples in India are still accessible and proof this once total different attitude towards sexuality in this culture. Even without knowing KamaSutra, it is widely accepted that India has one of the oldest knowledge about the human body. As we experience in this that sex has quite a lot to do with “Indian tradition”. Bandopadhyay works with different elements, the interviews, collage, images as evidence but often as well with a certain playfulness. Beside the researches there is always as well the element of the experience she made during her journey, a reminder that she, the filmmaker is always a part of the complex history she reveals in her recorded images.

The texts by Geet Govinda, the erotic sculptures in several temples which depict sexual practice or even old texts which describe the sexual relationship between the “iconic” Indian (unmarried) lovers Radha and Krishna are in existence. The film is also a confrontation of images, the ones of a relatively liberal sexual moral in the past and the hypocritical images of the present moral of in post colonial India which are established today. And in this confrontation of dominating and suppressed images like established and suppressed ideas of humanity, Bandopadhyay uses one of the most important nature of film, the presentation of images.
She also integrates small episodes where she appears in front of the camera.
In one of them she explains a souvenir seller in Varanasi an object that he has in his collection symbolizes the penis of a Hindu-god. That disturbs not only the seller but as well a client is refusing to buy it.
Even among a group of open minded young people the image of a naked goddess displaying vagina and breasts causes for some of them feelings of discomfort. Paradoxically the tradition of India appears for some contemporaries as something very strange and exotic. Parents,tells Bandopadhyay, avoid to visit with their children these temples with erotic sculptures.

One of the aspects I value most, is that Anamika Bandopadhyay despite her involvement in the subject appears never predetermined and it seems we even witness with her a lot of discoveries she made during this journey. Her questions are punctuating the film and bring us closer to a truth than hasty answers.
There is, for example a moment where it is mentioned that the menstruation was in ancient times regarded as a sign of purity of a woman. Temples with statues of naked goddesses were closed for four days a month when the goddess “menstruates” Later , the menstruation as a symbol of purity and even divineness was distorted into a sign of impurity and these temples denied access for menstruating women. What changed this attitude? One hint mentioned in an interview is the fatal combination of the prudery of the British colonial rulers and the prudery of the Brahmin cast. For a long time the tribal culture was relatively uninfluenced by sexual moral of India. Tribal women had more freedom to choose and separate again from their partner. But even these last traces of a different India seem to have disappeared. Another offered explanation is the rise of a Right wing movement which originated in the 1930s and which took its inspiration from a distorted Hindu-ideology and which includes the vilification of women and the discrimination of lower cast people.

The Third Breast offers different accesses to a certain aspect in Indian culture history and it gives an idea about the complexity of this country. Despite its analytical aspect there is also the “caméra stylo” - element. It is an insight and the film does not leave one moment of doubt that it is made by a woman from its culture. Like the incredible trilogy on the partition of Bengal by one of her spiritual mentors Ritwik Ghatak there is a relationship between the global history and how it is affecting the person who tells us about.
The filmmaker´s questions open the space for new perceptions. Even if she blames religious fanaticism, The Third Breast includes not a statement against religion in general but points out against misuse and distortion Her films are never made with this smart predetermined “I know it all” attitude. That let her appears literally “Unarmed” and vulnerable. The moment when she tries to comfort one of the abused women in Red , illustrates what I mean quite accurate.

Once we see her in an alternative temple called Devipuram, founded by an atom physicist. It is a temple where women are worshipped and we see her washed by temple servants. It is again one of the protected zones for women in this film. At the end we see again the old woman and the girl with the sun glasses on the beach a poetic image for a memory and another of these “protected zones” in this film, where oppression and abuses of women is suspended for a short while. This moments reminds me in a moment from one of her previous films Rough Cut, actually the only moment from this film ( which is probably lost) available for me. Only about 5 wonderful minutes are available on Bandopadhyay´s YouTube channel. A man and a young girl are in a temple. The man is painting or busy with a maintenance of one of the sculptures. The girl stands in front of a naked goddess. On her toe tips she stretches her body to touch the statue. She is measuring the size of the artificial body, touching its proportions and compares them with the proportions of her own. Her actions are like unspoken questions. Whenever I have to articulate my appreciation for Anamika Bandopadhyay´s films this fragment comes to my mind.

At the end of The Third Breast, the filmmaker reveals the story of the goddess Meenakshi as told by her grandmother. Meenakshi is born with a third breast. The parents were worried about this “deformation” and raised her like a boy. Some consider it not as a deformation but an extra of erotic appeal or strength. The film ends with the image of the old woman and the girl with sun glasses on the beach in front of the ocean waves. They are at the same time exposed to a natural force but the image is one of these “protected zones”. A fleeting moment in a film which told us so much about a disturbed world where women have to struggle to assert their space.

The Third Breast is another example for a “committed “ cinema which is full of compassion, anger but also tenderness without giving in for a second to any kind of sensationalism. I feel confidence in these images which appear to me as documented of true encounters, true experiences and true reflections.

Rüdiger Tomczak