It’s fascinating to see actors in the twilight of their own lives essaying characters who are themselves facing mortality. Though actors and directors are all professionals, it might not be the most pleasant thing for directors to ask the actors to dig into their fears of impending mortality especially with mortality being central to the narrative.
An underappreciated fact about Hopkins’ Academy Award win for Silence of The Lambs is that his screen time was not even 20 minutes. This time around he won for being on screen throughout its feature length runtime. And it’s an overlooked achievement considering that the film is not visual, it ebbs and flows along with the performance. The Father is based on Florian Zeller’s 2012 French play Le Père. It’s a mixed bag as a cinematic adaptation. The house looks like a stage and the artifice is jarring.
If it was meant to be Anthony’s mind then it rings hollow as a metaphor. What works in the design is the multitude of doors as the brain is a gateway metaphor. The editing is distinctly cinematic because it taps into the broken timeline in Anthony’s mind. One wonders how it could be as satisfactorily achieved on stage. What The Father lacks as a great cinematic adaptation in comparison with a movie like Incendies, is that it more than makes up for in the emotional punch it delivers. Three things keep repeating in the film from time to time; opera music, watches and paintings. Opera music is played on CD players. At one point the music is disturbed by a screeching sound that happens when the CD is scratched. CD’s are a memory device, a scratched CD is memory going downhill. Modern life is veering towards an irreversible digital landscape where Analog will be buried in the sands of time. Anthony’s continuous search for his wristwatch is a quest for that time gone by, an irreversible eventuality. Though painting is one of the few older art forms that is reasonably relevant today but with everyone having access to paintbrush online, it does not enjoy the reverence that it once did. Paintings start vanishing from Anthony’s life and one can see the noticeable mark a painting has left on one of the walls but the painting is nowhere to be found. Though The Father was not intended to, it becomes more interesting from the lens of the post-nuclear family generation of Indians. That’s the magic of cinema.
Indians can never imagine parting from their parents when they are alive. So the decision of sending them to care homes is not taken lightly. Olivia Colman does a stellar job of being a daughter who has to take that step and also the actress to stand up to a behemoth performer. Everything is written on her face and her voice is palpably heartbreaking. There are two instances which act as windows to the character. First one is when she tries to open the window but it only opens halfway. The second one is a compliment from Anthony that her new hairstyle makes her look good. This makes her happy but she doesn’t realise that it also means he usually doesn’t find his daughter beautiful.
Who am I? Anthony asks in the throes of his catharsis. It’s the only question that matters and he asks it with lucidity but has lost the ability to answer the question and nobody can do it for him now. One wonders if there is a meta reason behind naming the character Anthony. There are a lot of old men playing their age, but embodiments are few and far between.
Vishal Naik is a film editor, writer, producer and director based in Mumbai. His short film Nanne Munne Bachche Teri Mutthee Main Kya Hai charts the crossroads of philosophical and existential aspiration. He is a writer and producer on the Hindi remake of the Malayalam thriller Irul which will be made as a trilogy.
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SUBTLE HEART RENDERING COMEDY, SUFFICIENTLY DRAMATIC, GRIPPING CHAOS AND BITTERSWEET HUMOUR; A HIGH END COCKTAIL OF SCINTILLATING ENSEMBLE CAST AND CHARACTERS, WRITER- DIRECTOR CHIDAMBARAM ENDURES ALL STORMS TO DELIVER A WINNER
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SATIRE DRIVEN, NON-MELODRAMATIC, FOCUSED, AND METICULOUSLY SCRIPTED; THIS MOVIE IS A WINNER THROUGH AND THROUGH!
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Dulquer remains Dulquer, we recognize him and his methods in all his movies and he repeats himself once again. The actor lacks gravitas in his dialogue delivery and intonation. Can style and glamour make up for lack of method acting in a role like this? Did we expect more?