Indian director Aneek Chaudhuri has created a silent anthology film about survival; three stories about women who survive the devastation of rape and then fight back to lead stronger lives. Take a seat for our review of ‘White’.
The country of India has been the largest movie producer in the world for the last decade. It releases more than a thousand films every year and is home to one of the most important cities in the global film industry, Mumbai, which was previously called Bombay. Bombay is the name which gave origin to the term Bollywood, therefore Mumbai is both the centre and the birthplace of the multi-million dollar Indian film industry.
What is often cited as Bollywood’s success is that there is so much drama, colour and music in the films. The drama, colours and music seem to be appealing to the Indian audience as well because the domestic figures for these films are very impressive. There were two thousand multiplex theatres in India as of 2015. A year later, more than 2.2 billion movie tickets were sold across the country, placing India as the leading film market in the world. In comparison, about 1.25 billion movie tickets were sold in second-placed China in 2016.
There is certainly some colour in Chaudhuri’s film and also a haunting, constant soundtrack, but ‘White’ is as far away removed from the campy smiles and joys of Bollywood, as Disney animation is from visceral horror. According to its director, ‘White’ refers to a ray of hope existing among women, even in the darkest of situations and there are certainly some very dark situations in the three stories of this movie. A factory girl is raped inside her work premises; an orphaned girl struggles to come to terms with being grown up yet unwanted because she was the result of a sex attack, and finally a raped married woman has to deal with her husband’s reaction and behaviour towards the child born from the attack.
There is a lot of bravery on show in this film, not just from the actors and their characters, but also from the director and his crew. Keeping the film dialogue-free is a big risk as the rape angle is never specifically stated which may lead to some audience members getting lost. However, rape is a universal subject and a problem all over the world so there needn’t be a language barrier to it.
At first, I found the silence unbearable watching these characters go about their daily routine in real time was very taxing. In the first 15 minutes of the film we watch character sewing for around 8 minutes. It is certainly not a choice I would have made but I understand the director’s idea, he is showing these victims simply getting on with things. There is no need for any histrionics here, what’s done is done and we need to carry on. The anger and fear have subsided and is now replaced with maternal feelings and a determination to give the child a chance.
Music plays a huge role in the anthology with single instruments playing over each story the music seems to replace the regimented and mundane parts of these people’s lives and helps to guide the characters through their daily routine. The second story of the anthology is quite short and very different from the first and third as there is a use of flashbacks and jump cuts that quicken the pace and gives it a slicker edge whereas the third story is a lot more simplistic and thoughtful.
If you are after closure and answers from your films with a beginning, middle and end, then you will probably not respond in the right way to ‘White’. However, if you are patient and like to simply bask in a film while drinking in everything about it then your patience will be well rewarded with an original and lovingly-crafted piece of art about a horrendous subject.