Monday, November 17, 2003

revolutions: indiainising the green

The short of it is I enjoyed myself sitting there looking up at the Wachowksi brothers dish out another heady mix of mainstream existential angst and SFX-assisted action-o-rama. The final edition in the trilogy leaves a lot unanswered (which is good), adds more fuel to the fire on ambiguity (very good) and mercifully does not suffer from sagging midsection issues like the second edition did. Great action, swift pace, more loopy dialogue that goes nowhere. The downsides: As if compensating for the excesses in Reloaded, this film gives short shrift to a lot of ideas, threads and characters, while introducing a whole new set (including the Charon-esque trainman -- more here). The delightful Merovingian gets precious little screen time, and the steatomammate Monica Bellucci and her assets get only enough screen time to qualify her presence as a cameo. The battle for Zion has the predictably jingoistic elements, along with the usual "loser makes it big" moment. And there's the exchange between Neo and the Oracle when he asks when this will all end. The self-referential irony had me chuckling.

Which brings me inevitably to the "Indian" (quotes intentional) elements in the film. The kid playing Sati does a good job, but it's just a wrong Indian name. Strike one for the American idea of India and cool Indian ideology. Then we have an American (Bernard Wilson) playing Rama-kandra (Strike two and three for America's Indianness -- the closest you can have to this butchered name is raamacha.ndraa) and Tharini Mudaliar playing Kamala (pronounced, in American fashion, as kamaalaa instead of kamalaa). Now don't get me wrong, I'm not criticising the incorporation of Indian elements (perhaps the mystique is a benefit) into the film, but I still get sore at pronunciations. Most of the dialogue in the Mobil Avenue (name explanations here) sequence, and in fact the whole sequence itself, seems to be rushed -- making Reeves' weakness as an actor more evident. And then there's the much talked about shlok from the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 1.3.28 that is heard on navras, which dominates the end credits (although it sneaks up on you early on as neodammerung during the apocalyptic battle between Neo and Smith):

asato maa sadgamaya
tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
m.rtyormaa am.rtamgamaya
(The next line is a repeated invocation of shaa.ntii: The Waste Land by Eliot comes to mind)

The first vibe I got when this began to drum out (against a strong electronic rhythm, and peppered with violin rushes and a female alaap) was of the clichéd use of gregorian chants in horror films. And considering the meaning of the words in the shloka (From delusion lead me to Truth/From darkness lead me to Light/From death lead me to immortality -- This translation is from the liner notes of the soundtrack were from the Penguin Classics publication of the Upanishads, as translated by Juan Mascaro). Wish they had gotten the pronunciations right though. Quibble quibble.

Interpretations. Rife. Numerous. I'd love to watch the trilogy on DVD in one go. Would help to see if the Wachowski Brothers were trying to be clever and changed ideologies somewhere down the line. For now I'll rest with my favourite moments in the movie: the hordes of sentinels (pouring into Zion from the docks, inundating the Machine world, seating Neo into a makeshift jackport, and rallying about to give form to the Deus Ex Machina). And Hugo Weaving's great monstrous laugh.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.