Don Palathara’s ‘Shavam’, ‘Vith’ and ‘1956, Central Travancore’ are observational tracts filled with gorgeous “human landscapes”

Posted on October 13, 2020

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‘1956, Central Travancore’ (2019) premiered on October 5, at the Moscow International Film Festival. It is about the power of stories and storytelling

The Malayalam director Don Palathara has made three films: Shavam (2015), Vith (2017), and 1956, Central Travancore (2019), which premiered on October 5, at the Moscow International Film Festival. All these films are experimental. All these films could be called non-narrative, as they resist conventional plot and character development. All these films are in black and white, running from an hour to an hour-and-a-half. All these films are set in Chrtistian communities, and are laden with Christian imagery. All these films feature a number of static shots: the camera is still, locked into whatever action is taking place close or afar. In Shavam, the action is centred around the death of a young father named Thomas. The entire film takes place from the time the body is brought into the home — there’s a wailing wife, a slightly dazed son — to the time the body is taken for the funeral. The philosophy behind the “action” in this time frame could be described as follows: let’s be a fly on the wall and observe what happens.

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