Director: Ashish Varghese
Cast: Mohammed Ali, Arjun Raman
It’s always a little tricky to ‘film’ a sense of distinct melancholy. On one hand, the maker risks a deliberately exotic look of aesthetic and poetry, and on the other, one tends to overcompensate with silence to make us think about the characters’ thoughts. This reflective, restrained style may or may not suit the introspective tone of a film.
L’Attente (The Wait), a short about an emotional old man named Dev revisiting memories of his late lover, does a bit of both.
There are times when one senses that the director – a little carried away by the grammar of gravitas – could have cut a shot sooner, and tightened up the emptiness
A lovely French song paints the man’s entry into a world he once knew all too well. Music can do wonders to set the stage for the piece’s mood, but can also work against the rest of its soundscape. Dev then spends a large chunk of his time at a café feeling like an imposter, torn between being sheepish and needy, as he finds himself in a nervous conversation with her son. Inconsistent pacing aside, the younger man is an interesting presence; his hard face offsets his older visitor’s pensiveness. He looks like an adult boy in the process of outgrowing his bitterness, even positioning himself in a power of authority. He has not forgotten, and this is his time to forgive.
There are certainly a bunch of undertones here, but the quiet seconds and fumbled words feel a bit stretched. Depending on who you are, you may end up ‘intellectualizing’ this meeting – determined to read between the obvious lines, perhaps attributing the fading craft of this phase to the disoriented mental state of the shaky protagonist. A slight change in treatment here may have prevented us from hanging onto every unspoken word. We don’t hear much ambient sound either, presumably because nobody else exists for the man, who is trying hard to grasp onto straws, yearning to be missed again.
The actor (Mohammed Ali) wears a pained, reluctant face that fits in, though he makes you wish that the camera didn’t focus so long and so hard on him. There are times when one senses that the director – a little carried away by the grammar of gravitas – could have cut a shot sooner, and tightened up the emptiness.
This is a fairly elegant film that wants to be sad and heavy, and tends to overplay the inherent awkwardness of its situation. Yet, it is shot well, and assumes the nostalgia of a short story – the kind that ends with a strong parting line. It leaves us with a strange feeling: a “wait” is often frustrating and flawed, which makes it difficult to forget but not easy to remember. Just like this short.
Watch the film here: