In Don Palathara’s Everything Is Cinema, an independent filmmaker Chris (Palathara himself), and his wife Anita (Sherin Catherine) visit Kolkata to recreate something along the lines of Louis Malle’s documentary Calcutta. Chris says that Calcutta was filmed through a western gaze, but he also admits he is as much of an outsider as Malle. The couple arrived at the city in January 2020, recorded people on the streets, and then went into quarantine after the lockdown was implemented. What was supposed to be an outdoor activity turned into an inner confrontation.
Chris compliments the city, pointing out that the best thing about Calcutta was how the eyes looked back at the camera lenses. In Everything Is Cinema, the camera sees a person as a hero of their own story. People pose as if they are models. A man covered in soap puts one arm on his waist and the other on his head and pauses to smile after noticing that he is being filmed. We become conscious when photographed. A sculptor makes a figure with a certain pride in his gesture, all because he shows his work in front of the camera. One of the pleasures of watching movies is that you get to experience a different place from the comfort of your seats. Like how in this film you enjoy the performance of an entertainer who uses monkeys – the audience beholds the act with amusement in their eyes while you join them from your screen.
As soon as Chris and Anita quarantine themselves inside a room, the colours turn black and white. Given how much the duo quarrel with each other, the colours can be considered more than just aesthetic choices. They inform how colourless their relationship has turned. There are no traces of love, romance, and interest. Chris shoots Anita with an accusing gaze. He passes judgments on his wife, telling us how imperfect she is. Chris doesn’t like that she reads Paulo Coelho. He hates the female guests that come into their house, laughs at her belief that yoga could potentially save her from the virus by strengthening the lungs, and in one heated moment, he argues with her and calls her dumb when she prepares a cake for a friend’s birthday.
The bitter tension between them reminds you of Malcolm & Marie and Gone Girl. Like the former film, you have the black and white frames while the latter had dialogues where the husband expressed his resentment for his wife (“When I think of my wife, I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brains”). In Everything Is Cinema, Chris says, “every husband and wife thinks about killing their partner at least once in their marriage.” Observing the two, you don’t doubt the veracity of the statement. There are times when you believe that one or the other would emerge with a knife in their hands.
The more Chris criticises Anita, the more he reveals his self-absorption and the more he distances the viewer from him. It’s the man who registers as pretentious, and you wish you never get a chance to sit with him. You laugh a little when Chris attacks Anita for taking up the role of a relationship advisor for a woman living downstairs (“As if she knows how to manage her relationship herself!”). But ultimately, you care for Anita (at least she is filled with positivity) and hope she leaves her husband. Chris thinks he is uncovering the unpleasant layers of Anita, but unbeknownst to him, he ends up unveiling his vexatious side. Within a tight runtime of 71 minutes, Everything Is Cinema blurs the line between fiction and documentary and marries the logic of life to the beauty of movies.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.