A reliably unreliable narrator

Posted on November 23, 2017

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Read the full article on Film Companion, here: http://www.filmcompanion.in/article/southern-lights-a-reliably-unreliable-narrator

A look back at a scene from Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Anantaram’, which turned thirty this year.

About the genesis of Anantaram (Thereafter), Adoor Gopalakrishnan had this to say: “When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, she came back from the hospital and told me this story of a child who was abandoned in the hospital and later adopted by one of the doctors there. That was the spark.” The film, thus, opens with a wailing infant – though the voice over this visual is a man’s (Ashokan). He introduces himself: “My name is Ajayan. I am also known as Ajaya Kumar. Neither my father nor mother gave me this name. I have no father and mother. Perhaps the woman who gave birth to me paid a price for my birth. She unburdened her shame in the labour room of this hospital and escaped into anonymity.”

Anantaram (whose English title is ‘Monologue’, which is what we hear from Ajayan) does begin with the anecdote the director heard from his wife – and builds into an affecting meditation on a man who attempts to explain himself with two stories. The film builds the first story, stops, then starts the second story from scratch – it’s a stunning formal experiment, the equivalent of starting to read The Catcher in the Rye (to take another first-person narrative with an unreliable narrator), reaching the point where, say, Holden Caulfield is talking about being in a room with a sex worker, and then resetting the clock, with Caulfield narrating a different (yet complementary) story about himself.

Continued at the link above.

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