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I saw this bizarre, unsettling horror film from India at the Seattle International Film Festival. The woman who introduced it described it as "one of the most mystifying films I have ever seen." I don't know if I'd agree with that assessment, but I can certainly understand it.
The story takes place somewhere in the Indian countryside, and involves a landowner who seems to have it all- a productive farm, a loving wife and child- until one morning he wakes up to find a mole on his chin. At first the mole is merely a puzzlement, but soon it gradually begins to grow into a large, oozing wart that both he and his family worry about night and day. Soon he can think of nothing else, and when his wife pleads with him to go to the doctor to get it removed, he stubbornly insists on only using traditional methods (such as herbal remedies) to heal it, and they are ineffective. Eventually the wart bizarrely begins to take on a mind of its own, and threatens to envelop and destroy him.
From there, the movie dives headfirst into horror territory, and the gentle earlier scenes between the man and his family give way to something resembling a grotesque nightmare. Having seen it, I am not quite sure what to make of it. Is it intended as a straightforward horror film, a fable, or a dark satire of the Indian caste system, in which rich landowners are seen as people who stubbornly hang on to useless traditionalism, and who unnecessarily obsess over things that don't really matter, until those things envelop them?
An argument could certainly made that the film is intended as such a satire- it echoes the British film How To Get Ahead In Advertising, in which a man's sins are personified by an evil boil on his shoulder. But this argument is belied by the gentleness with which the main character is portrayed: the rich man is not selfish or vain, and genuinely cares about his family and the servants who work on his farm, which makes him an unworthy target for ridicule. Indeed, we can see very little that he has done to deserve what befalls him, and what happens to the man in the second half of the film resembles a biblical curse rather than an earned punishment.
Interestingly, the audience I watched the film with had a variety of reactions to it. In the early scenes, some audience members laughed at how the man and his family talk ceaselessly about the mole, while others did not. Later, as the film got creepier and nastier, some were clearly disgusted, and others sat silently mesmerized at the bizarre spectacle on screen (and, no doubt, with feelings of sympathy at how this gentle but flawed man is thoroughly victimized by his affliction).
In conclusion, I found this to be an intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying film because its makers are never clear on exactly what they are trying to say with it, if anything. Are they trying to tell us something about Indian society, or simply to creep us out? (If their goal was the latter, it definitely worked- I walked out of the theater wanting to go straight to the doctor and get every mole removed from my body). If you see the film, perhaps you will be able to accept its ambiguity of meaning better than I could. It is certainly an unsettling, challenging film, and in that it has its rewards, but it is definitely not for everyone.
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