Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Leprosy of the Heart

India Song (1975) - Duras Screen Shot 2022-01-17 at 9.40.12 AM Screen Shot 2022-01-17 at 10.02.41 AM Screen Shot 2022-01-17 at 11.49.45 AM Screen Shot 2022-01-17 at 10.24.40 AM Screen Shot 2022-01-17 at 11.13.45 AM India Song is a slow, melancholic jazz tune that plays out over and over again throughout the film. And it fits into the narrative of colonialism in Marguerite Duras's film. With the setting sun that opens the film, India Song tells the end of the Western colonialism. She equates that with love and how insatiable it is.

The film starts with a narration, talking about a mad woman who came all the way from Indochina, singing an old tune. No one knows how she got to India. The madwoman's voice and singing is also heard, throughout the film.

Anne-Marie (Delphine Seyrig), a wife of an absent French diplomat, resides in a grand, decaying, ornately furnished mansion with wordless turbaned servants. We are introduced to her many lovers, lounging around the corridors, standing still, looking forlornly and slow dance with our red haired aging beauty. There's a stink of decay in the air, as if these people are ghosts inhibiting their old playground, not knowing they are dead, forever trapped in time. The film's many voice-overs say as much, that she later died on an island, out of lethargy, boredom. Seyrig exudes that unachievable mirage, the symbol of western civilization in its last days.

A vice-consul of Lahore (Michael Lonsdale), nicknamed the last virgin of Lahore, is madly in love with Anne-Marie, but unlike all her other suitors, she never reciprocates and never gives him a time of day. He cries, watching her dance with her many lovers, standing still in the corner of the room. He later warns her that he will make a scene unless she flees with him to the islands after a brief slow dance to India Song with her. He howls in pain, begging her to leave with him, to give him a chance to be with her. His cries are heard all night long after he gets dragged out of the frame.

Meticulously staged and filmed with slow tracking shots and intentionally wooden performances, India Song strongly resembles fellow nouveau roman scribe Alain Robbe-Grillet's Last Year at Marienbad, directed by Alain Resnais. Highlighting decadence of the Western colonizers with their completely out of place sense of entitlement and how it rots the human hearts, India Song is a cinematic achievement that encompasses all of Duras preoccupation- colonialism, war, love, memories, from a woman's point of view, equally as man's.

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