16th Kolkata Film Festival brings the best of literature in Cinema


Kolkata, Nov.12, 2010 (Calcutta Tube/IBNS) Literature takes prime spot at the 16th Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) this year. Rarely has literature on celluloid occupied such an important category in earlier film festivals.

The presentation of literature has more or less been incidental to the choice of a given film or a filmmaker or the country focus. This year is different.

The inaugural film Of Love and Other Demons for example, directed by Hilda Hidalgo of Costa Rica, is based on the novel of the same name by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Nobel Laureate in literature in 1982.

Literature describes visuals in words. Cinema brings words to life through visuals, sound, music, dialogue, acting and splicing or mixing of shots generally known as editing.

This, very simply, is the basic difference between literature and cinema. Cinema, an eclectic art form, has borrowed generously from earlier art forms like music, poetry, painting and architecture. Cinema has the inherent ability to transcend the constraints of literature.

[ReviewAZON asin=”B0000WN118″ display=”inlinepost”]Other Nobel Laureates in Literature from across the world who feature in the special section are Death in Venice (1971) directed by Luchino Visconti authored by Thomas Mann in 1912 with the English translation published in 1925.

Mann’s wife Katia said that the idea for the story came during an actual holiday in Venice, which she and Thomas took in the spring of 1911. The film starred Dirk Bogarde and Bjorn Andresen.

The Tin Drum (1979) based on a novel by Gunter Grass made into a film by Volker Schlondorff who also co-wrote the film. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film the same year.

David Bennent played the role of Oskar, the young son of a Kashubani family in a rural pocket of the Free City of Danzig in 1925.

He humorously explains his lineage, which is illustrated by the camera, explaining how his grandfather being pursued by police, hid under his grandmother’s skirts in a potato field. The film also gives a “child’s-eye view” of his own birth, from the womb out, and he explains his displeasure at being born.

The Tin Drum was one of the most financially successful German films of the 1970s.The film was banned in Ontario Canada followed by Oklahoma County on grounds of child pornography and for portraying underage sexuality respectively. There was a massive debate on the banning of the film but ultimately, the filmmaker won.

[ReviewAZON asin=”B00006LPER” display=”inlinepost”]The Piano Teacher (2001), an Austrian-French co-production directed by Michael Haneke was based on Elfriede Jeinek’s novel that bagged the Nobel Prize (2004.)  The film won the Grand Prx at Cannes (2001) and the Best Actor and Actress awards for Benoit Magimel and Isabelle Huppert.

Epic in scope and imagery, Fateless (2005) directed by Lajos Koltai is a haunting look at mankind’s capacity for inhumanity, as well as survival. Many of the images in Fateless are familiar, but they are presented so unsparingly, so uncloaked by emotion that they become freshly potent.

The film is a reflection of how its main character comes to experience reality, as one small moment between what came before and whatever horror or happiness is yet to come.

It is based on a work by IMre Kertesz who won the Nobel Prize in 2002  for his novel written between 1960 and 1973 and first published in 1975.a semi-autobiographical story about a 15-year-old Hungarian  Jew’s experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.  Koltai’s.. textured re-creation of enduring the unimaginable with quiet delicacy is the most hauntingly beautiful film about the Holocaust ever made.

Blindness  (2008) directed by Fernando Meirelles of Portugal, is based on a novel by Portuguese author Jose Saramago who won the Nobel Prize in 1998.  It was originally published in Portuguese and then translated into English. Blindness is the story of an unexplained mass epidemic of blindness afflicting nearly everyone in an unnamed city, and the social breakdown that swiftly follows.

The novel follows the misfortunes of a handful of characters who are among the first to be stricken and centers around a doctor and his wife, several of the doctor’s patients, and assorted others, thrown together by chance.The city afflicted by the blindness is never named, nor the country specified. Few definite identifiers of culture are given, which contributes an element of timelessness and universality to the novel.

The tribute to French filmmaker Claude Chabrol comes in the form of Madam Bovary (1991) based on Gustave Flaubert’s famous novel of the same name, one of the most important French novels of the 19th century published in 1857.

The novel was was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the French Government for “immorality.” It was nominated for the Golden Globe Aard for Best Foreign Language Film and also for the Academy Award for Costume Design.

The novel has been filmed a number of times. Jean Renoir did it in 1934 with Valentine Tessier in the title role. There was a German version in 1937, made with Nazi approval, starring the one-time Hollywood vamp Pola Negri.

The Tagore tribute has a wonderful collection of four films. These are – Charulata (1960) by Satyajit Ray, Khokababur Prayabartan (1960) by Agradoot,Tapan Sinha’s Atithi (1965) and Purnendu Patrea’s Streer Patra (1973).

Add to this the Tarun Majumdar package and other films featured in India Select and Contemporary World Cinema.

This interweaving of literature adds a new dimension to the 16th KFF.

By Shoma A. Chatterji

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