British born director Michael Winterbottom is famous for working across a great deal of genres. Looking down his film credits its quite surprising (1) how many films he has actually made (2) the diversity and variety of these films. His latest movie is his third adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel. The first was Jude (1996) based on Jude the Obscure; he followed this with The Claim (2000), which transposed The Mayor of Casterbridge to the 1860’s Californian gold rush. The third film is Trishna (2011) adapted from Tess of the d’Urbervilles and set in modern contempory India rather than Hardy’s familiar stomping ground, Wessex.
|Will this passionate lover affair survive?|
Trishna (Slumdog Millionaires Freida Pinto) is a young girl from an impoverished rural background in Rajasthan who meets a privileged well educated young British businessman Jay Singh, played by Riz Ahmed who was much more effective in Chris Morris’s Four Lions (2010), returning to India to work in one of his fathers many hotel businesses. When an accident destroys Trishna’s family livelihood she goes to work for Jay and the pair fall in love. Because they are defying traditional Indian convention they run away to Mumbai, one of the only places in India they can live out a normal relationship. But of course you just know it will all end in tears?
|Freida pinto plays Trishna.........|
|....with Jay Singh portrayed by Riz Ahmed.|
This in fact is one of the problems with Winterbottom’s movie, it’s narrative is so obvious you just know well in advance what’s about to happen. Combine that with a weak storyline that does not really exploit the story’s big question: can a relationship be based on beauty alone or will it always descend from superficial love into a potentially destructive sexual relationship, Hardy obviously thought so, unconvincing acting and its need of a stronger female lead sums up the difficulty I had with this movie. On the plus side its an ideal setting for the adaptation, contrasting the two entirely differing worlds of traditional and modern contempory India. Marcel Zyskind’s photography is excellent giving great visual imaginary to the whole thing and the soundtrack especially written for the film does add to the narrative. But a somewhat disappointing outing for Winterbottom.