IFFK 2021: Of elusive women and minimalism
A look at two distinct entries from the 25th edition of IFFK
Kayattam (A'hr) [Malayalam]
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's new film A'hr (Kayattam) is one of the strangest entries at IFFK 2021. However, it's not entirely indecipherable either. Co-produced by and starring Manju Warrier, the film has the actor playing someone whose mystery remains hidden even after the end credits roll, and that's easily the best part of this experimental adventure film. One wonders if the mythical connotations wouldn't have been obvious enough had the makers not given a hint as to the nature of 'Maya', the protagonist, in the opening crawl. We also get clues about the character through songs by an indigenous group in the A'hr language. Though some of these songs test our patience, the placement of others makes perfect sense. At times, Kayattam feels like the third part of a trilogy that began with S Durga. As in that film and Sanal's last film Chola, we see voyeuristic male eyes trying to gauge the nature of the relationship between a man and a woman. Before making the characters' motives clear, Sanal takes us through stunning landscapes - captured mostly in wide-angle by Chandru Selvaraj - and psychedelic sequences that evoke Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Woman Who Ran [Korea]
Like the Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo seems to be making the same film twice. But despite the familiarity, the fresh insights into human nature that he brings reminds us that we are watching a different film. Despite having Korean characters and often the same set of actors playing them, these films address themes that speak to a global audience. The Woman Who Ran revolves around multiple female characters. The conversations are intimate and soul-stirring, and the emotions fluctuating and contradictory. The women discuss existential subjects and the mundane aspects of everyday life - love, divorce, relationships, food, health, and more. Sang-soo makes stunningly astute observations about people - his films get as close to real-life as possible. The pacing is unhurried, and Sang-soo is careful not to infuse his filmmaking with much glamour. He employs the most simple framing techniques and often uses zooms to cut from one particular shot to another - say a wide to a medium shot - instead of cutting to it. Cinephiles familiar with the works of Eric Rohmer and Richard Linklater may find enough to appreciate in The Woman Who Ran.