Directed by Aditya Chowdhury | Review by Prarthana Mitra
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ditya Chowdhury’s hour-long Eclipsed is set in a world that claims to be in a distant future—one that feels like the time we inhabit right now. Only, the metaphorical darkness is replaced by a literal one. The film opens with an interior monologue explaining the absence of sun in the world of the film, and charts its varied impact on the characters.
In a manner of speaking, the film embodies tropes from the philosophical science-fiction genre, effectively portraying man’s technological advances as a soul sapping force. There is a constant dichotomy between the darkness and the light, the artificial and the natural. But the lines gradually blur as action progresses. By the end, the film acquires a dimension that can be loosely described as magic realism.
The film opens with an agenda that seeks to establish a world illuminated by artificial light, which is the price mankind is paying for its own latent darkness. While some are unsettled by this harsh clinical light which could be construed as figurative, others have adapted to the absence of the sun. They no longer seek the light, perhaps because they don’t feel the need to. On this note, the film portrays how easily people become apathetic today. In a way, their collective amnesia and inability to conceive of a sunlit past is reminiscent of futuristic dystopian societies portrayed in Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451.
The new normal runs alongside a parallel plot that informs us of a relationship so pure that it could only have been possible in the realm and era of light. The protagonist who guides us through the neon-lit streets, gardens, arcades, hopes to arrive at a place in time, where the sun is believed to still rise and set like clockwork, hidden from view.
Sneha, an artist, is consumed by this dream of a promised land, and torn between the immediate calls of darkness and the illusion of light she is intent on chasing. Her art draws from this conflict; the duality plays a role in her paintings as well. In the scene where she refuses to install a new artificial light and sound source in her gallery, her aversion to sugar-coating darkness with artificial light becomes clear. At the same time, darkness and silence takes control of her psyche. We often cut to frames with darkened edges in remembrance of time past, but they could have depicted a dream of reunion set in an unknown future just as well.
We never fully understand the true nature of the darkness that haunts her until the film enters the second half and her episodes become more prominent. She is sad that people have started to forget about the sun but soon realises that only darkness or the absence of light can give meaning to light. Amidst fear of death and decay, the dark corners of her mind and in her art grow noticeably, prompting her to face her demons to overcome it. Acknowledging the omnipresent darkness in all of us, the film’s seminal moment of reckoning leaves the audience guessing. Is Sneha’s darkness as a result of her denial or the trauma that causes denial? Is it madness, fading of memory, perhaps even death?
Stylistically speaking, the interplay of light and shadows forms an integral part of the film’s visuals. In terms of cinematography, although the film scores high points for composition, there is room for improvement especially when allegorical storytelling is concerned.
Lighting, of course, is of immense importance to the film, and Chowdhury utilizes the night and artificial light generously to his convenience. The extensive use of voiceover, however necessary, does result in a jarring effect as did the background score when it broke off abruptly to give way to a conversation or a new scene.
The principal characters played by Shatadipa Ghosh and Kanika Gupta deliver calm stoic performances, but frequent sighs and lingering pauses create a problem with the pacing of the film. With a tighter edit, the film could have made for a more riveting and suspenseful watch. However, the remorse and confusion were conveyed well enough, owing to the empathetic screenplay and dialogues, to drive home the point: It’s darkness we really crave for, not the light.
Prarthana is presently in between odd jobs and obtaining her master’s degree in literature. She loves modern poetry and meditative cinema. Based out of Calcutta, Prarthana observes people, football, films and enjoys writing about all three. Of late, she relates to Frank Ocean’s music. Her writing experience consists of writing for various sites such as Try Cinema, The Indian Economist, Doing The Rondo, Saintbrush and various academic journals.