Directed by Sudeshna Sharma / Reviewed by Adva Reichman
Some films hit you right in the stomach, make you lean in and at some point even raise your hands in the air in disbelief. This was my experience watching ‘The beginning’, a short film that received my undivided attention and kept me glued to the screen till the very end, which for its leading character, Nina, was only the beginning.
‘The beginning’, written and directed by the talented Sudeshna Sharma, follows Nina, an Indian woman, who arrives at Paris in order to reunite with her husband. The new culture and customs are clearly different, but Nina submissively listens to her husband as he orders her to adopt them and learn her new surroundings.
It is imminently clear from the get go, that their relationship is not equal or even healthy, and that Nina doesn’t respond well to his affection or touch. And yet, her husband, Dev, doesn’t give us a real reason to fear… Yet. Nina’s character delicately clarifies that something is off.
The couple next-door neighbor, Greg, manages to get in to Nina and Dev’s apartment when Nina is home alone. The rest is every woman’s worst nightmare. But to Nina’s surprise and very much to my own, the story finds additional ways to break the viewer’s heart, and the emotional pain that follows is devastating.
This film is profoundly relevant to the burning issues our society deals with today. Women’s rights, feeling safe, being in a healthy relationship and the relation between power, money and color/race.
Nina, a woman of color, finds herself brutally beaten and traded like a commodity by men, and for the white powerful man. In today’s world, where people of color fight for their lives and rights, this film demonstrates yet another example of the suffering caused by the hands of the almighty. This specific story makes everything so much worse, because Nina’s husband chooses to play a significant role in her suffering, and has no understanding of the damage he’s done.
The particular agonizing scene left us hearing it all, but seeing nothing, thus letting our imagination run wild. I do appreciate that choice since at times the viewers’ imagination, accompanied with the right sound, can create an even bigger sense of devastation. However, I do wish, in this specific case, that the visuals we did get to see would better guide us in the understanding of the brutal nature Greg took it too. That was something we only discovered later when we saw how bruised Nina was and realized the severity of the beating she endured.
The statement the director makes throughout the film and with it, sheds more light and empowers the much-needed cry for women’s rights and for women’s safety in India specifically and in the world as a whole.
The film delivers beautiful performances by Kuheli Bose, who plays Nina, Anurag Singh Rathor, who plays Dev, and Alex Blanchard who plays Greg, the neighbor. I especially enjoyed the ending where, without spoiling too much, Nina decides to remove a specific symbol from her life, in order to symbolize something new. This, I imagine, was part of the reason the film received the title ‘The beginning’. ‘The beginning’ shows the audience the struggles of building a new life in a new country, but also touches on creating your own new beginning by yourself, within yourself.