There is such power in the naming of things, especially the names we choose for our children. In this film, the act of naming and the acceptance by the child of his name is a central theme, though it is not the only one by any means.
The Baron and I don’t get out to see movies much. The trip to town is long, and life around Schloss Bodissey keeps us busy. Besides, as bloggers know, one tends to become a bit tied to one’s blog, as though it were a demanding toddler needing constant attention so it won’t roll off the bed, or stick its curious fingers into electric sockets, or heaven forbid, get lost in the maze of cyberspace.
However, it was my birthday a few days ago so we decided to celebrate by going out to eat (hurray for employment!) and seeing a film. The future Baron talked us into sushi, and from there we walked the block or so to the theatre.
We saw an American-Calcutta film, “The Namesake.” I don’t care for reviews which repeat the story line. I’m more interested in what the director is trying to show me.
For starters, the director is Mira Nair. If you saw any of her other films, you will understand the attraction of her work. Ms. Nair lets the components of her characters build slowly until you begin to understand, just a little, who they are and what drives them. In “The Namesake” you can re-live, for a few hours, the process of building your own relationships over time. She lures you into identifying with each character, even the “villains” – if such they be.
Ms. Nair is a brilliant director. She uses the extremes that can exist in climate and culture to point to the emotional effects that these differences evoke…all without ever stating explicitly what they are. You simply experience the difference between a snowy New York City and a steamy Kolkata (Calcutta). You experience the sense of dislocation caused by existing in these two extremes, and the gradual integration – in at least one of the individuals – of the cultural clashes and their effects on character.
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Thus, the film is truly multi-cultural, as that word was meant originally: the ability to exist wholly in two places, even though one’s heart always belongs to our earliest experience. Thus, the mother, raised in India, is a stranger in a strange land in America, but she has made her peace with it. Her children, American born and raised, are visitors to their ancestral home…nice place to visit but who would want to live there?
The family visit to the Taj Mahal makes a visual impact beyond the mere filming of architecture. You become, momentarily, a part of that beauty; you stand in the place of the grieving lover who caused it to be created and the builders who brought that love into being. It is as though the Taj Mahal exists out of necessity.
This is a film to see, and it is one to own. Whatever your age – and this work would be suitable for adolescents and adults – you will identify in some measure with the life’s journey of Nair’s characters.