When talking of a filmmaker as distinctive as Don Palathara, the most recent work turns into part of a continuum — even when it’s nothing like the sooner ones. Shavam, Vith And 1956, Central Travancore have been experimental movies, non-narrative movies within the sense that they resist typical plot and character improvement. All these movies function various static pictures: the digital camera continues to be, locked into no matter motion is going down shut or afar. The brand new movie, titled Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam, is a bit more “mainstream”. It has one thing of a “plot”, revolving round a lady (Rima Kallingal as Maria) who’s harassed as a result of she could also be pregnant. Her live-in boyfriend (Jitin Puthenchery as Jitin) is driving her to a clinic. We comply with their journey by way of a single (i.e. uninterrupted) take.
However regardless of this “plot”, and regardless of these characters speaking a lot (we all the time know what they’re pondering or feeling), the aesthetic is as rigorous as in Don’s earlier work. The digital camera is “locked in” all through. It’s mounted in entrance of the couple in order that even when the automobile is in movement, it feels as unvarying as a static shot from, say, Shavam. When Jitin has an argument with Maria, he steps out of the automobile and walks behind. We see him at a distance, by way of the rear windshield. When she leaves the automobile, we see him sitting alone, wanting on the telephone and flipping by way of radio stations. Bodily and psychologically, they’re trapped in a state of affairs (neither of them desires a toddler), and (visually) we’re “trapped” proper in with them. We get the marginally awkward, barely embarrassed feeling of hitching a experience with two folks passionately arguing about his private hygiene and her lack of civic sense and, most of all, their private lives.
Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam is in color. However nearly the whole lot is inexperienced: the person’s shirt, the girl’s prime, the water-bottle within the automobile, her ear stud! It’s so determinedly monochromatic that — once more — we might be seeing an extension of the black-and-white palette of, say, Vith. As for Don’s recurring Christian imagery, we solely have to have a look at the girl’s title, which is essentially the most maternal of Christian names. However this Maria, a journalist, just isn’t feeling particularly Christian in direction of her associate. She used to name him “Jitu”. She inspired him to “comply with his ardour”, even when he’s nonetheless a struggling, small-time actor. Now, she is looking him “Jitin”, and has begun to grasp that his “ardour” might not be capable to feed a 3rd mouth. He senses hazard flags fluttering throughout him.
No less than from the skin, Maria is intentionally confrontational. Possibly she must set free all her nervous power, which she can not if she cools down and turns into all “sensible” like Jitin. (He compares the maybe-pregnancy to the pandemic. “We learnt tips on how to deal with that. We’ll discover ways to deal with this, too.”) Or possibly Maria is scared that her physique must put up with much more than his, and what if he leaves her! The strains are credited to the actors and director, as within the Earlier than Dawn installments (which this movie loosely resembles). Nothing appears like “dialogue”. Like Don’s different movies, you would possibly name this an observational tract — about this central relationship, and about different relationships we hear about (over telephones) from Jitin’s buddy and Maria’s buddy. Even the script that Jitin reads when Maria steps out for a bit is a few relationship.
Don pokes enjoyable on the “woke” Malayalee male (regardless of his wokeness, Jitin has requested Maria to chop ties off with a male buddy) and even at himself. The movie’s comedian spotlight is Maria’s interview (once more, over the telephone) with a Don-like director, who makes not “films” however capital-C Cinema. (He says so himself, and the character is voiced by Don.) He asks why solely his movies are labelled gradual and eventless once we readily hail the gradual and (apparently) eventless works of Bergman and Tarkovsky. The bit the place he explains why he’s a feminist is priceless. It unites Jitin and Maria for a second, however then, they start to bicker once more. Maybe the one actually massive distinction between Don’s earlier work and Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam is that, for the primary time, he’s reliant on good performers: Rima Kallingal and Jitin Puthenchery are each terrific. They juice up the director’s state of affairs. After this delicate breakaway, it’s going to be fascinating to see the place Don Palathara goes subsequent.