Film Review: ‘Midnight Delhi’ is a bewildering tale of violence

A still from ‘Midnight Delhi.’ (Image supplied)
Updated 13 October 2018

Film Review: ‘Midnight Delhi’ is a bewildering tale of violence

SINGAPORE: With his 2006 film “Babel,” Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu kickstarted a trend of depicting multiple storylines that are finally tied together at the end of the film. Since then, many directors have attempted this fascinating model of storytelling, and the latest to jump into the fray is India’s Rakesh Rawat. His “Midnight Delhi,” which premiered at the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival last week, zooms in on a dark, mysterious day in India’s capital city, which has in recent years grabbed global attention for its crime rate.

Rawat’s debut fiction feature begins its narrative on a foggy night with a burglar (played by Anshuman Jha, whose screen name is not revealed until halfway through the 115-minute movie), who uses a blade to slit the jugular vein of his victim, jumping into an autorickshaw (driven by Mukesh Bhatt, earlier seen in works such as “Jab We Met” and “M.S. Dhoni”). The burglar engages in light banter with the driver, gaining his confidence until he attempts to commit the crime.

Later, in a series of seemingly unrelated events involving a jilted woman and a husband who returns home to find his wife with her lover, Rawat weaves a narrative that is extremely violent, sometimes unnecessarily so, and also confusing at times. Packed into three acts, though, the drama has interesting characters, each with their own tragic tale.

In a style reminiscent of American auteur Quentin Tarantino (whose canvas is invariably a bloody mess), “Midnight Delhi” throws together puzzling situations that do not quite add up. While Inarritu ably tied up the different stories in “Babel” to present a coherent picture in the climax, Rawat does not quite get to that, and some of his characters appear overly dramatic, sometimes even caricaturist, leaving us with a sense of dissatisfaction.


‘Noura’s Dream’ becomes nightmare dilemma in this raw tale

Hend Sabry plays the lead role in ‘Noura’s Dream.’ (Supplied)
Updated 16 October 2019

‘Noura’s Dream’ becomes nightmare dilemma in this raw tale

CHENNAI: Hinde Boujemaa’s “Noura’s Dream,” which premiered at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and later featured at El Gouna Film Festival, saw the movie’s protagonist, Hend Sabry (Noura), clinch best actress award at the latter.

The director, who also wrote the script, tackles an unusual dilemma for a woman being pulled in three different directions by her husband, lover and three young children, two of them girls.

It is certainly not an easy task to lead a story such as this – emotionally complicated and set in Tunisia – to a closure.

In an interview with Variety, Boujemaa said: “There have been movies about adultery, but very few of them have been wholly empathetic to the woman. There’s often a kind of moral judgement attached. I wanted to make a film without any hint of moralizing.”

“Noura’s Dream” opens with a romantic scene. Working in a prison laundry, she is seen on her phone talking to her lover, handsome garage mechanic Lassaad (Hakim Boumsaoudi), and the two are all set to marry, her divorce just days away.

Her husband, Jamel (Lotfi Abdelli), is in jail having been caught committing petty crimes but when he is freed early after a presidential pardon, things get messy.

The director tackles an unusual dilemma for a woman being pulled in three different directions by her husband, lover and three young children. (Supplied) 

Boujemaa’s film has the feel of a Ken Loach (British director) movie, with its take on the predicament of the working class. There is a certain raw quality about “Noura’s Dream,” devoid of the polish and psychological complexities of “Marriage Story” (screened at Venice), in which auteur Noah Baumbach portrays the pain of a marital split with a degree of levity and sophistication.

A similar approach and treatment cannot be taken with Noura’s story, which is set in a very different kind of social environment that gives little freedom or equality to a woman. Take, for instance, the scene in which Noura’s defense lawyer, a woman, makes her client feel small and guilty, reminding her of the injustice and harm a split would do to her children.

Boujemaa’s film has the feel of a Ken Loach (British director) movie. (Supplied) 

Sabry brings to the fore the quandary of Noura, who is completely lost.

Should she go ahead with the divorce and marry Lassaad, a union that could mean abandoning her children who need their mother? Or should she stick with her wayward husband? There are no easy answers.