Friday, July 25, 2008

BEFORE THE RAINS - engaging but somehow slight

BEFORE THE RAINS is a beautifully photographed, well-acted period drama about the consequences of cross-cultural marital infidelity in pre-independence India. Linus Roache plays a British planter having an affair with a married village girl played by Nandita Das. She is naive enough to believe that he will eventually leave his wife for her. In his defense, one can say that in their early scenes together, he seems to be genuinely fond of her. But when she arrives at his house, beaten by her husband, he callously pays her off, asking his faithful driver TK to take her away. The only person who seems surprised by this is the girl, who returns, leading to a cycle of disruption and violence.

The best thing about BEFORE THE RAINS is the photography of the lush Keralan countryside, by DP turned director Santosh Sivan. The performances are also decent, especially from Rahul Bose as the servant who mediates the story. He starts off as a faithful believer in the British Empire, willing to be ruled in exchange for civilisation. His journey to realisation of the true nature of Empire is at the heart of the film. The girl and the natural environment are all symbols for the country itself - exploited for a buck. The problem with the film is that the metaphor and the substance of the drama are rather obvious. It's a plot you can see coming for miles, and a message that is far from revolutionary.

BEFORE THE RAINS played Toronto 2007. It was released in the US in May and is currently on release in the UK.

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