Directed by: Michael Winterbottom | 113 minutes | drama | Actors: Freida Pinto, Anurag Kashyap, Riz Ahmed, Huma Qureshi, Roshan Seth, Kalki Koechlin, Harish Khanna, Neet Mohan, Aakash Dahiya, Meeta Vashisht
Remarkable. Anyone who looks at Michael Winterbottom’s oeuvre in 2012 will mainly see strong films (’24 Hour Party People ‘,’ The Road to Guantanamo ‘,’ The Trip ‘) in addition to a few mediocre (‘ Code 46 ‘). His oeuvre has only two misses: the porn pop drama ‘9 songs’ and the nagging anti-globalization document ‘The Shock Doctrine’. Let those be the only films that the undersigned of Winterbottom reviewed. Is it bad karma that it goes wrong again with film number three?
‘Trishna’ is loosely based on Tess of the d’Urbervilles by the 19th century writer Thomas Hardy. The Tess in this adaptation is called Trishna. She is the gorgeous daughter of a courier in a small village in today’s India. The meeting with Jay, the rich son of a hotel owner, turns Trishna’s life upside down. What starts with a simple job at her admirer’s hotel turns into a full-fledged relationship that slowly slips into an existence full of perverse power games. The class difference between the two functions as a rotting foundation.
The first hour of ‘Trishna’ is doable, thanks to the atmospheric images. You can enjoy the varied architecture, the landscapes, the brightly colored clothing and the beautiful character heads. Supported by atmospheric music and with a story that has not yet gone off the rails, it is a tourist trip with the help of a capable guide.
Only when we are used to the Indian beauty will the problem of this film emerge. Trishna and Jay’s characters are empty shells, characters without any individuality or depth. As a viewer you have no idea what is hiding behind those faces, and probably the actors are also hardly aware of this. An additional problem is the strange combination of 19th and 21st century stereotypes. Then again Trishna looks like a 19th century servant, then she is a modern young woman, complete with mobile phone and hip ambitions. That double is also in Jay, who alternately resembles a hipster and a bored pasha.
When in the end the story derails, Trishna and Jay do things that are hardly motivated by the foregoing, the film is irretrievably lost. In theory, Tess’s move from 19th century England to 21st century India is an exciting idea, in practice it doesn’t seem like anything.