Homemade Guacamole with Flaxseed Crackers to Go with Homeland

Homemade Guacamole with Flaxseed Crackers to Go with Homeland

Bitter Harvest, 2017

It’s all one big messy bowl of borscht: the politics, romance, faith and famine all mashed up in this story which follows two Ukrainian lovers through a mass starvation in the early 1930s known as the Holodomor.  The mass starvation imposed by Joseph Stalin on the Ukrainian people is one of the underrepresented horrors of the 20th century, and it is said that twenty million people were sent to their deaths.

Thanks to Martin Amis’ book Koba the Dread at the turn of this century, I had gained an uncommon education into the history of Russia and the murderous Stalin, and was therefore eager to see this film.  I regret to inform that this was not by any stretch of the imagination an effective representation of Stalin’s overwhelmingly significant blot on world history.  While it may have been completely well-meaning to have woven a romantic story in the midst of the famine and bloodshed of the time, the fact is that it did nothing to enlighten or enhance the gravitas of the situation.  And while the beautiful landscape of the Ukrainian mountains and its people made for some lovely scenery, it did little to convey the rape and pillage of the land and its people.  Given the current state of world events, this film had the potential to build and shape world opinion on Russia, but sadly, it is more a flimsy gossamer offering that fails to teach and impress.

As for the actors, they’re all a fine bunch despite a dull script.  And Max Irons is a fine young man, but does not, unfortunately, have the presence of his father, Jeremy Irons.

On a most inconsequential note, I was quite taken by the lovely embroidered shirts and blouses that the peasants wore almost like a uniform.  That small detail highlighted in some measure the unique arts and culture of the land.

bitter-harvest

 

 

“Frankly, my dear…”

“Frankly, my dear…”

Raees, 2017

It didn’t do anything for me: the bright lights, the throw-back fancy dance numbers, the ripped Shah Rukh Khan defying time and age, and certainly not the story.

Speaking of story, let’s tackle that up front, shall we?  We know from experience that he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword, so that’s that.  And since that was established quite early on, there wasn’t too much left to ponder on that count.  And that would have been fine to not have any suspense over the inevitable end had there been something more enduring, something more remarkable, something more redeeming, something a little more ‘raees’ than the very ordinary, very long, and actually very disappointing story altogether.

And so, I shall spare my breath and your attention, and tell you that you’d be better off sparing your twenty bucks, nay, make that more like twenty-five bucks if you think you need to go in with the popcorn or the Raisinets.  No “Laila main Laila” however slick the song or the beat is worth your time or energy when there isn’t anything more to hang your hat or your dupatta on.

raees

Silence, 2017

I kept telling myself I needed time – lots of time – to process this film in order to even attempt to write a review of it.  Because so intense and multi-layered of a moral and philosophical treatise is this film, I was afraid I would not be able to truly capture the spirit and essence of the story.  Or the many underlying implications attached to it.

And yet, I could not wait more than forty-eight hours to attempt a write-up because so compelling are the themes of this film, I am beside myself trying to “process” them all, and to put into words the impression it has left on me.  I can only imagine what having first read the book – that the film is based on – might have on the viewer.  But having not had that advantage, I shall unequivocally share what I believe to be my thoughts and feelings about this movie.

This is a story of two young Portugese missionaries – played so very masterfully by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver – young and resolute in their Catholic faith and mettle, determined to carry on the work of their predecessor and mentor Father Ferreira (played by the most sublime Liam Neeson). Ferreira is believed to have renounced his faith in deference to the brutally anti-Christian aristocracy of Japan.  How could it be that such a pillar of faith would have turned apostate in the face of persecution? Was his faith so weak? So shallow? So trivial? Was it never anchored in anything larger and stronger than himself?

These are no ordinary questions, nay, these are extraordinary questions, and require extraordinary courage to seek answers.  What follows is a quest that leads the two young missionaries on a soul-searing journey in seventeeth-century Japan – an ancient land in which the Buddha is revered – and the two discover an overwhelming love of Christ that compels the natives to wilfully accept and adopt the Christian faith. Furthermore, they learn that this faith has evidently taken so strong a root in them, they are willing to forsake all and be subject to dire consequences, even persecution and death.

Behind the grand and rugged scenery of Japan’s countryside and the resolute will of the ruling class to stamp out all such traces of Chrisianity, there is an utterly moving, robust story that Scorsese delivers with absolute earnestness.  And just when you think nothing can shatter the will and devotion of the two young missionaries to their cause, we slowly begin to understand how and why Father Ferreira might have apostasized.

The horrific persecution of the natives for their Christian faith leaves very little to the imagination, and yet, the weighty moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the two do not render them cynical or syrupy.  On the contrary, their decision to eventually give in to apostasy may be viewed as a very matter-of-fact and humane way of addressing their circumstances.

This is not a crisis of faith; this is not apostasy.  This is pure love in action that is channeled by their belief in Christ that speaks just as loudly, if differently, to the non-spiritual as it does to the faithful.

For it is in this uniquely unconventional exemplification of God’s love that we see how great a sacrifice is actually being made.  And how great a faith is actually being upheld and persevered.  It begs the question as to what you yourself might do under the same circumstances.

And if one were to follow that line of thought: what would Christ himself do?

The only silence in ‘Silence’ is the eardrum-splitting kind of silence that sinks to the utmost corners of one’s conscience in knowing that apostasy is a much-nuanced concept, and sometimes, in life, only when things are upended in the most unimaginable ways, is there meaning, and truth, and life.

silence-2017-movie-poster

Because the Movies Demand It

Because the Movies Demand It

Lion, 2016

I don’t suppose I’ve ever made the claim to have cried through an entire movie – not because it was horrible, but because it was so very good – until I saw this beautiful story called Lion.

So stricken was I at the many facets of the film that captured so very skillfully multiple stories spread across continents, that it is truly difficult to pinpoint which pieces of the story appealed to me the most.  How does the universe sometimes conspire to align the stars in such a way so as to allow for us mere mortals to see with the aid of hindsight how the trajectories of our lives have intersected here and there, at this place and that, with this one and that one, and has finally caused us to be alive to reflect upon where we are today.  How does that happen?  Is that Providence? The hand of God?  There is no other explanation.  At least not one that is as convincing to me as that.

This is a film that prompts us – sometimes gently, other times violently – to reflect on the underlying existential themes of the human condition, and leaves us in awe of the inexplicable.  How does the human heart have the capacity to love and yet to turn away from love, nay, to nurture evil in one’s hurt? How does the human heart long for learning of one’s biological origins and doesn’t stop seeking it out? How does the human heart have the capacity to love not one but two women so much that the line between birth and adopted mother are truly blurred?  For these and the very many other heart wrenching issues of social evils in India deeply-rooted in poverty that were highlighted, I raise a glass to the creators of this thoughtful film.

And if you’re wondering about the title of the film and what it stands for, I’m afraid you would need to be a native speaker of Hindi to begin with, and even then, would need to wait until the very end of the movie to truly understand.

This was a lovely Christmas Day viewing in the company of my family, and other than crying my eyes out, never before did I walk out of a movie theatre feeling so very privileged to be alive.  And loved.  And whole.

lion