“Ee Ma Yau”… A laugh-out-loud, yet deep, meditation on death and faith that’s a masterclass in writing

Posted on May 26, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/ee-ma-yau-movie-review-baradwaj-rangan/

Watching Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Ee Ma Yau (R.I.P.), I was reminded of Raam Reddy’s Thithi. The narrative motors of both films are kicked into high gear by the death of an eccentric old villager, whose son, then, becomes the story’s lynchpin. And both films are about organising a funeral, when there’s very little money to go around. But there’s a more tenuous connection: Francis Ford Coppola. The director of The Godfather movies called Thithi “a joyous view on life in a village in India with unforgettable characters.” Lijo, I’m betting, would be thrilled if Coppola paid him a similar compliment — for he looks up to the great filmmaker. The memorable single-take climax of Lijo’s previous film, Angamaly Diaries, was reminiscent of The Godfather: Part II, in the way it fused a religious procession with an attempted assassination. The opening stretch of Ee Ma Yau harks back to the Sicilian funeral from Part II, and it’s a stunning piece of cinema. As though to show there’s more to him than jaw-dropping unbroken takes, Lijo goes to the other extreme. He opens Ee Ma Yau with a static camera. A funeral procession enters from one end of the screen, exits through the other. The characters move; the frame stays fixed.

The setting is the seaside, and the sound design of the scene suggests a cycle: the soft crashing of waves is invaded by raucous instruments mourning the dead, and when those noises disappear, we are left, again, with the soft crashing of waves. You could see it as the tumult of life, bookended by the serenity of birth and death. Ee Ma Yau invites these deep considerations, despite being structured as a (black) comedy of desperation, where events are ratcheted up to the point where the roof actually caves in. Lijo and his writer, PF Mathews, keep piling on the chaos, but first, they establish the themes. The funeral procession — which may be the old man’s (Vavachan, played by Kainakary Thangaraj) dream, or a premonition — hints both at death and religion. Death is everywhere. In Vavachan’s impending demise. In the fate of the duck we see in his bag. In the power cut that plunges the village into darkness. In the words of a boyfriend: “I will die if I don’t see you.” In the blue notes of a clarinet, which Vavachan says “sounds as though you are playing at a funeral.” It’s even in the passing of a way of life: the sea that was filled with fish during Vavachan’s childhood is now dry. And what about the card players by the shore? A nod, perhaps, to The Seventh Seal, where Bergman’s Death was seen playing a different game by the shore.

Continued at the link above.

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