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» Mukhamukham (1985)
Mukhamukham (1985) Online
Original Title :
Adoor Gopalakrishnan,Adoor Gopalakrishnan
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Mukhamukham (1985) Online
Sudhakaran as a man
Sudhakaran as a boy
I was fortunate enough to see a viewing of this film with the director present for a Q&A afterwards. One of the things the director pointed out is that although dialogue is used in both film and theatre (he has written and directed both) is that while the skeleton of theatre is dialogue, cinema should be supported mainly by images. This principle is aptly illustrated by his film MUKHAMUKHAM. Not that the film has any sudden surprises or plot twists, but I will cover the storyline so if you will have the opportunity to see this film soon and wish to go into it cold, stop here.
The film opens on water and it takes a while to realize what kind of vehicle you are on and even what sort of body of water and what is being transported. Around 5 minutes go by in the opening credit sequence before any words are spoken. After landing, the setting is a factory where roof tiles are being fashioned out of clay in an India (which the director has said) came into the industrial revolution a century later - although there is some automation, it is minimal by current standards.
The story line could be synopsized by "a labor-rights leader enamored of Lenin's philosophy attempts to better the lives of his comrades and although he obtains some success, he disappears for some years and upon his re-appearance is only a shell of the man he once was."
This is more of a film where it's the journey, not the destination that is more important. There are long portions with minimal dialogue - the gears and machinery in the tile factory bring to mind a sequence of Chaplin's MODERN TIMES, man caught in the mechanism. The first words of the film are "Long live the revolution!" and the protagonist is seen as a silent figure - a sign says ""40th day of worker strike." A lone black dog lies in the background. The soundtrack has a minimum of Indian music and rather lush string compositions underscore the emotional tones of the film.
Twice a car breaks through a group of workers at the factory entrance - the second time the sign reads "65th day of worker strike." Sepia-toned photographs of Lenin are seen - the first of several "interviews" of people talking about the protagonist takes place. Sridharan asks an older man for a place to sleep. The man also offers tea "I never say no to tea." He pulls out a coin to pay and the older man responds, "No need to pay - business hours are over." The old man laments the current times "Only thugs and cheats prosper these days."
Police come to raid the unionist office but we are left to imagine what occurs at this event - nothing is seen transpiring - only the soundtrack conveys events. Afterwards we see the bruised people.
A woman remarks about Sridharan "[He was] shy - unusual in a trade unionist." Sridharan has stated his feelings that personal relationships must be sacrificed for the cause - individuals are like leaves on the tree of humanity. The same woman remarks to him "Why do you hate women?" He responds he doesn't understand the question. "You will never understand," she says.
The film is a little over 1/2 through when Sridharan disappears. When he returns, although he is greeted with reverence, he does not reveal anything of the lost time. It gradually becomes apparent that he has become a drunkard, and steals money from his wife, allowing his son to take a beating for him. A young man growing up in the first part of Sridharan's life is being expelled from the union - in Sridharan's absence, the union has split into two. He is asked to make a decision - both by the group intent on expelling Sridharan's disciple and by Sudhakaran himself.
But he will not - more likely, *cannot* decide - he is but the shell of the man he once was and history is prepared to roll over him.
The film ends with Sridharan's beaten and murdered body shown - and a revival of the chants heard at the beginning of the film "Long live the revolution!" is heard.
The man himself has become inconsequential - only the memory of the man can galvanize the crowds.
Adoor Gopalkrishnan's MUKHAMUKHAM (FACE TO FACE, 1984) is intentionally boring, and consequently I fell asleep. Rather an obvious negative criticism on the effectiveness of communism in Kerala, it's 'hero' was once a leader of the Communist Party. But after a party split and his absence of many years he returns, apparently in a long sleep, fortified by alcohol. He responds not to his family or his former colleagues. Yet, after his violent and mysterious death, he remains a hero of the movement. This apparently was intended as a more subtle critique, but it proved obvious enough for Kerala communists to break with the director. It may also reflect problems Gopalkrishnan had after a split from his former producer, or on the halting of his projects after several more years.
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