Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Terrorist

This is the worst image quality, this poster. Ah well. I'm too sleepy to find another one. Today I watched The Terrorist, directed by Santosh Sivan in 1998. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the movie, having never heard of it before. I was really surprised by how quiet and contemplative the movie was, and by how much I enjoyed it. I thought maybe it would be preachy or something, but I felt like everything was really left up to the viewer. I guess it was cast with mostly non-actors, which is why it felt so realistic and unscripted. I thought it had a really nice combination of good visuals and good story.

The film follows a 19 year old girl named Malli who is part of a terrorist organization. She has a strong resolve, inspired by her brother who gave his life for the cause. She volunteers to go on a suicide mission to assassinate an important opponent to her cause. We see her as she prepares for her mission, meeting new people and having new life experiences. Can she go through with her mission?

The story sounds like it could be difficult to watch and sort of, well, controversial. I was almost relieved that it didn't seem that way at all. It wasn't easy to watch, but it also just felt very neutral and unbiased. It wasn't trying, it felt, to support or defend Malli's actions. It really did feel like we were just following her last days, and I really appreciated that I never felt like I was being manipulated to feel one way or another.

In Ebert's essay, he brings up a quote from an interview where the director explains that other movies show a lot of violence and then try to make the point that it's not right. This film is different. We really don't see much of anything, which is why any sort of argument against war or terrorism is so much stronger. It's not inadvertently being made into entertainment or anything appealing. I know I've written before about how Truffaut said it was impossible to make an anti-war film, since by the very nature of the film, war is made appealing. Paths of a Glory is a movie that makes war looking unappealing, and this is another. It doesn't really deal with any of the things that sensationalize violence, but instead deals with the reality and everyday life of these kids. It's a sad one, as you would imagine a life would be in which the best thing that can happen to you is death.

Even though I feel like I've made the film sound like there is some ideology at work here, there really isn't. I can't really find one, honestly, and what I'm saying is more or less how I feel about what was presented. The movie feels so objective because it just focuses on this little snapshot of events. A girl's last days before her mission. There isn't so much about the reasons behind it, or the reaction to it. Just her side, her experience, and that's it. Make what you will of it. It's good stuff, and from what I read in Ebert's essay, was filmed on a small budget in a few days, the actors doing their own tough stunts. It's simple, and I appreciate it's no-frills approach and message. I feel like I haven't said much of anything, but really, it's like an incredibly simple but beautiful poem, and I love that it's just so open and straightforward. It's short, and worth seeing, if you want something different and interesting.

Have any thoughts about The Terrorist? Share them in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Terrorist
Buy it on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Santosh Shivan was a very famous cinematographer in India. Almost a celebrity. He used to work for the director Maniratnam, one of the top directors in India long back. But as a director himself, apart from The Terrorist his work has been disappointing.

    If you liked the movie for its cinematography, you will definitely like the work he did with Maniratnam.