As should be readily apparent by now to anyone who reads this blog, I make sure I know a little bit about a flick before I see it, both to prepare myself for what I’m about to see, and to make sure I’m not too caught off guard. So when I did a little research into India Song, to see what made it so outstanding, either in quality or in significance, and pretty much came up with nothing, I was a bit dubious as to whether the film was going to be worth it. Well, I’m glad I did my research; there is very little to be grateful to India Song for, and anything that is to be found here can easily be found elsewhere in much more worthwhile films.
The film apparently deals with the boredom-instigated indiscretions of the wife of a French diplomat living in India. I use the word “apparently” because I really couldn’t have given a flying arse what this film was about; that’s how badly the story was told. Most, if not all, of the plot and the dialogue takes place through voice-over narration, as if the film and its actors’ movements were mere art exhibits, and the voiceover was explaining the significance of what we were seeing to us; an audio tour guide straight from the artist herself. As for said artist, Marguerite Duras, this was apparently an adaptation of an unproduced play of hers, which makes me immediately want to call shenanigans; I was brought up in the theater, and grew up on film, and I know the fine line between the two, and one of the main focuses that makes a theatrical screenplay rather than a film screenplay is one word: dialogue. This film had none. Zero. Everything was voice-over explanation, so how in the world could this have been a stage play? I can see how it remained unproduced; if Duras had dared to do on stage what she does on screen here, I can’t imagine the sheer amount of rotting fruits and vegetables she would have had to endure coming her way on opening night.
I really, honestly, cannot believe I sat through this one. The Book calls this “demanding but fascinating viewing”, adding that people tend to find the work either “hypnotically seductive or maddeningly pretentious”. I don’t use quotes from the Book that often, but this was too perfect to ignore, and it matched my mindset about the film exactly; it was visually entrancing (mostly because of how deliberate and slow everything in the frame is), but one couldn’t ignore the air the film puts off – that air of “high art” that the film clearly thinks of itself as. I’d tell this film to look to the work of Terrence Malick to figure out how to have this air about oneself, but not have it come across so dramatically, and still be an entertaining film; this was just lofty and highbrow in the most stuck-up of ways, and one could very finitely get the sensation that the film felt it was better than you, and that if you didn’t like it, you were an indignant, uncultured troglodyte. Well, call me arrogant or egotistical for saying so, but I believe myself to have quite the cultured palette when it comes to film; able to enjoy a little bit of everything, including from the genres I don’t normally like, like lowbrow horror, neorealism, or screwball comedies. India Song, however, I could see right through like I had laser vision, and to quote another review I found about this film, it is “no content and all style”. Now, normally, I can go for a film like this; I will readily acknowledge my propensity to lavish praise upon films that are breathtaking visually but admittedly come up short in the story department, but this one was just so mean spirited about it; India Song, if it were a person, would have the stiffest upper lip I think I would have ever seen on anyone in my life, and no amount of sternly worded, look-down-the-nose debate from such a person is going to make me enjoy said person’s company.
I was completely on the fence about whether to give this a 5 or a 4, but in the end, I decided to be mean. Take from that what you will.
Arbitrary Rating: 4/10