Her views on screen

Her views on screen

bold voices

Her views on screen

The year 2016 saw many women directors leaving their mark on cinema across the world. A spin-off from this was several women-centric films, and others that were enriched by the feminine perspective. 

In the interest of brevity, only a choice few can be listed here, and though the preferences are subjective, the German film, In Love with Lou — A Philosopher’s Life, must get top billing. Director Cordula Kablitz-Post chooses as her protagonist, the pioneering psychoanalyst, Lou Andreas Salome (1861-1936), and fleshes out her life and times with great depth and sensitivity. Lou succeeds in straddling the worlds of psychology, philosophy and literature, leaving her mark in all the three areas.

The romantic inclinations of Lou, as also her close friendships with Nietzsche, Rilke and Freud are explored at length. The enigma of Lou as a femme fatale, and also as one who chooses to live in a platonic marital relationship for 33 years, has the audience in a state of suspense. Director Cordula uses three female actors to delineate the role of Lou Salome at different points in her life, and cleverly succeeds in bringing out the dilemma of autonomy versus intimacy, which, whilst being true to the original story, becomes the central theme of the film.

When Nietzsche presses his case for marriage, Salome argues that marriage puts the woman in a subordinate role whilst a sexual relationship has to be based on equality. Kudos to Kablitz-Post for delineating the sensibilities of this brilliant woman for an audience of another century, who might wind up realising that Lou Salome was ahead even of present times. 

Of liberated lives

The saga of the Arab-Israeli conflict is given a new dimension in the film, In Between, directed by Maysaloun Hamoud. The film has garnered many prizes, including the best debut feature film at the Haifa Festival. Under Hamoud’s baton, the movie winds up as a revealing portrayal of three Arab women living in Tel Aviv, who are caught between the restrictions of their traditional societies and the liberated lives they opt to live, whilst being looked upon as second-class citizens.

This film, and a few others directed by Arab women, reflect societal changes and originality in their attempt at putting the individual at the centre of the narrative, even as they break out of the male Palestinian filmmaking mould of Israeli occupation themes. At the Haifa Film Festival, the jury justified its choice by calling this film “a powerful creation about women fighting to shape their fate by coping with challenges through friendship, courage, victory, and by breaking free of shackles, and the price they pay.” 

Resonating stories

Who would ever imagine that the Scandinavians practised colonialism and racism? But this is exactly what Sami Blood, the debut film by Amanda Kernell, the Swedish-Sami writer-director, reveals in this collaborative venture by Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The race, commonly known as Laplanders, were dismissively referred to as Sami folks and other worse epithets like “circus animals” and “dirty, smelly Lapps” by their well-heeled Swedish neighbours. 

Whilst this coming-of-age story can resonate across geographical boundaries, the film also reveals the shocking socio-cultural prejudices prevailing in the 1930s, and even worse, the almost Nazi-like genetic notions that prompt physicals, where the Sami children are poked, prodded in degrading fashion. But most importantly, this is the story of 14-year-old Elle Marja, who despite all the ills heaped upon her, is determined to fight the system in her quest to garner an education. 

The Bulgarian-Greek film Glory, though a collaborative effort between director Kristina Grozeva and her colleague Peter Valchanov, deserves a mention because of its relevance to present times where the media creates heroes/ villains in the twinkling of an eye. This is the fate of railway worker Tsanko Petrov who, finding huge sums of money strewn across the railway tracks, decides to return it, and the drama that unfolds next. 

Significantly, in 1937, India put a heroine, Shanta Apte, at the centre in V Shantaram’s Kunku (Marathi) and Duniya Na Mane (Hindi) where the young bride shuns the marital bed after being tricked into marrying an elderly widower; a bold theme reverberating with that of Lou Salome around the same time frame.