21st KIFF: If music be the food of love, play onâ€¦..
Kolkata, Nov 19 (IBNS): The role of music in world cinema has not been explored as much as it ideally ought to have been. This comes across lucidly through some films screened as part of the 21st KIFF both in its negative and its powerful impacts. Let us take the powerful role music can play in a film. It can be the main protagonist of a film. It can be an agency, it can have curative and rehabilitative effects on disturbed and distraught minds. How aesthetically and socially music can be handled by a talented director is expressed in the Brazilian film The Violin Teacher directed by Sergio Machado screened in the Cinema International Section.
One may not know of Chopin, Bach, Schubert, Vivaldi, Beethoven and other composers beyond their names. One may not know a note of Western classical music, orchestras, waltzes and so on. But one can be deeply impacted by the music composed and orchestrated by the music director duo of Alexandre Guerra and Felipe de Souza. The violin teacher in this film who is a social misfit and suffers from nervous pangs at a critically decisive audition, finds himself as a saviour of lost souls in the slums of Sao Paolo whose young lives he turns around, unwittingly, through his teaching him the beauty of music.
The film is inspired from the true story of the Baccarelli Institute and the play Acorda Brasil by Antonio Ermino de Moraes. It illustrates the transforming power of music both for the teacher and for his batch of socially marginalised and disturbed students who live in a slum.
The Passion of Augustine on the other hand, screened in International Competition and directed by Lea Pool of Canada, uses the backdrop of the “Quiet Revolution” in Canada which was a period of socio-political and cultural change to narrate the story of a dedicated by extreme disciplinarian Mother Augustus, the principal of a small convent music school and her evolving relationship with her music students. The entire film unfolds against the backdrop of the music lessons, the music practice sessions, the music concerts intercut with some students wanting to break away from the discipline which suddenly takes a complete twist when the socio-cultural revolution demands a change in the very cloistered habit the nuns wear.
The performances, the relationships between and among the students of the convent and with their Catholic sisters and mothers in the same convent, are woven beautifully with classical piano works and at least one vocal tribute to Schubert which is performed as a girl’s choir.
Indian films like films from other parts of Asia such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan use music because music forms an integral part of the country’s national and cultural identity. Therefore, the use and positioning of music in the films of these countries is influenced more as a bridge when the script runs out of dialogue, as a time-bridge between childhood and adulthood, as an entertainment factor or as a means to an end rather than an end unto itself. The result is that in most films of these countries, music becomes a dominating factor at times and dominates the narrative instead of complementing it and/or enriching it.
Sarmad Sultan Khusat’s Manto, where the director also plays the title role is a Pakistani film which is a fictional biopic on the famous writer Sadat Hasan Manto. This film uses music economically and creatively but uses it much more and more often than the film actually needed the music as it is the biopic of a writer and not a music maestro. Elizabeth Ekadashi directed by Paresh Mokashi, an Indian feature film in Marathi that has won two National Awards, uses the excuse of the pilgrimage town of Pandharpur in Maharashtra to put in as many songs and as loud music as possible to detract from the interesting characterisations of the two kids instead of focussing on their antics. The power of silence, in effect, remains unexplored.
(Reported by Shoma A. Chatterji)
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