The wife of a disgraced French diplomat suffers from “leprosy of the soul,” another term for ennui. Through a mélange of off-screen gossip, we learn of Anne-Marie’s scandalous conduct in 1930s India and her eventual fate, engendered by boredom, colonial guilt, and a string of meaningless affairs.
Set in the colonialist homes of ‘30s India, renowned writer and filmmaker Marguerite Duras cast Delphine Seyrig as a diplomat’s wife haunted by imperialist guilt and the anguishing emptiness of opulence. Notably, the film eschews sync sound, advancing its narrative through various off-screen voices.
Gallic avant-gardists make great zombie movies. Rivette saw the screwball comedy of the bourgeois morts vivant in Celine and Julie Go Boating, Marguerite Duras sees a slow, aching valse in which the soundtrack goes its own way.
This is a beautiful visual poem that feels like the offspring of Visconti's The Leopard and Akerman's Jeanne Dielman. With beautiful use of space and seductive camera movements, Duras crafts an interesting portrait of desperation and longing.
Herein lies all that I've ever understood
concerning love's stag, shot and bleeding,
or the hunters passing around their silence
like cognac into silver cups. That native woman
from Burma wails nothing we didn't know.
While that white woman at the piano
is the sum of what we'll never understand.
How can the sun be green decay?
Oh, I think I'm flying.
I can easily understand why India Song doesn't work for so many people but I sat there entranced by the whole thing. Unique filmmaking. Awesome score. And Seyrig still manages to be awesome as she wanders through the film like a ghost.
WARNING: This film is not for everybody. Whereas every other film on the planet puts either an equal emphasis on sight and sound or pushing the visuals only, this is one rare case where the sound is the core element. Which isn't to say that the mise en scene is not wonderful in it's own right. There is a story here, a tragic one at that, but it's presentation will be a hurdle many will hate and rightfully so.
Characters intrinsically tied to society, other people, space and time(in both the sense of cinematic rhythm and “human history”).
Without any “acting” or sentimentality such tremendous emotion is expressed.
India Song is an immensely affecting fusion of film and literature. Images, music and VO inseparably connected.
Duras has created something profoundly poetic and completely unique.
Marguerite Duras has crafted an incredible film here. The disconnect between the sounds and images contributes to her critique of imperialism, ultimately revealing the hollowness of those who engage. It's beautiful!
Can't decide if watching this at night while I was tired was a good idea or not. In a lot of ways, Duras film is deliberately disorientating and hypnotic, extremely languid and slow in pacing, often holding on single shots for an extended period, while disconnected voices speak over the action. Yet, the disconnect (and connection) between the two provides film's thematic goals; colonialism is the death of the soul.
The film is a slow dance of ennui and near meaningless existence as the characters are more poetic conceits than flesh and blood characters. This is more a film of tone and directorial intent playing more like a poem at times than a cinematic experience. Beautifully captured and the remaster overseen by the film's cinematographery (Nuytten) is exquisite. For fans of slow cinema.