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Hard to Care

There are films which I feel obliged to like . . . but don't.

Last night, fittingly after a dinner of lamb marinated in tandoori sauce, spicy vegetables and basmati rice (prepared by friends in a nearby cottage -- I am on holiday at my cottage at the moment), we watched Deepa Mehta's Water. Politically, it is correct: Following the plight of a house of Indian widows, forced to live apart because their husbands died young and remain separate and chaste (except if a man from the Brahmin cast takes a liking to one of them) because their religion compels it. Clearly, though, religion is this case (in most cases?) is just the infrastructure for enforcing a set of social and cultural values that benefit a particular class or simply men in general. That's one of the points of the film, that plus offering soft shots of the usual characters with indomitable spirit, big hearts and sad eyes confront their challenges in the exotic India of the late 1930s.

So, why didn't I like it since even Salman Rushdie tells me it should "touch (my) heart"? Frankly, it is hard to care about characters who accept so willingly a fate determined by religious standards, who believe they should be punished because their husbands pre-deceased them, husbands who they were forced to marry at seven years old in the first place. Am I to be angry at them for accepting so readily their fate, angry at the caste system which subjugates them, angry at men for taking advantage of the system, furious with Lord Krishna and other deities who are so obviously nothing more than constructs of a repressive social structure?

Not for me this film. Give me Casablanca any day . . . which leads me to Alan Furst's spy mysteries which I have just discovered. More later about The Foreign Correspondent, Red Gold and Kingdom of Shadows which I have been reading over the past couple of weeks.

Julian Barnes Does it Better

" The Wired Board "