Tr­ish of the d’ur­bervilles

Michael Win­ter­bot­tom re­lo­cates Thomas Hardy novel to In­dia for a colour­ful if slightly un­der-pow­ered melo­drama, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

FIF­TEEN YEARS af­ter di­rect­ing an im­pres­sively grubby ver­sion of Jude the Ob­scure, Michael Win­ter­bot­tom re­turns to Thomas Hardy with this ec­cen­tric vari­a­tion on Tess of the d’ur­bervilles. Stick­ing to the barest bones of Hardy’s plot, the di­rec­tor has moved the set­ting to con­tem­po­rary In­dia. It’s a very pretty look­ing thing (maybe a lit­tle too pretty) fea­tur­ing strong per­for­mances from both leads. But the cen­tral re­la­tion­ship never quite makes sense, and the in­evitable clos­ing catas­tro­phe seems beamed in from an­other cen­tury.

Tr­ishna (Freida Pinto), a poor girl from a Ra­jasthan, falls in with Jay (Riz Ahmed), a rich young In­dian raised in Eng­land who has re­cently moved back to run his fa­ther’s ho­tel. Jay of­fers Tr­ishna a job and, avoid­ing the sus­pi­cious glares of the other work­ers, they em­bark on a pas­sion­ate re­la­tion­ship.

Later Jay de­cides to launch a ca­reer as a film pro­ducer. The cou­ple move to Bom­bay, and, now liv­ing to­gether openly, savour that rel­a­tively lib­eral’s city’s bo­hemian so­cial life. Then a breach oc­curs and he starts to turn sullen.

On a purely su­per­fi­cial level, Tr­ishna is a de­light to be­hold. Win­ter­bot­tom’s mo­bile cam­era does a fine job of con­vey­ing the vi­brancy of Bom­bay and the steamy beauty of Ra­jasthan. The movie stays just the right side of trav­el­ogue as, ac­com­pa­nied by a clever score from Amit Trivedi and Shigeru Ume­bayashi, it me­an­ders to­wards its tragic close.

It seems churl­ish to point out that if you stripped away all that colour you would be left with about half an hour of plot. It seems meaner still to com­plain that the even­tual di­vi­sion be­tween Jay and Tr­ishna is very ec­cen­tri­cally cal­i­brated. He cer­tainly turns nasty. But he is not quite di­abol­i­cal enough to jus­tify the ex­tent of Tr­ishna’s even­tual emo­tional melt­down.

Whereas Hardy’s novel came across as a soul-stretch­ing melo­drama, Tr­ishna, for all its beau­ti­ful pack­ag­ing, oc­ca­sion­ally re­sem­bles a su­pe­rior episode of Eastenders.

Still, the film is brave in its am­bi­tion and el­e­gant in its ex­e­cu­tion. A de­cent op­tion in a poor week for new re­leases.

Poor girl makes good: Freida Pinto as Tr­ishna Di­rected by Michael Win­ter­bot­tom. Star­ring Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Roshan Seth, Kalki Koech­lin, Anurag Kashyap, Aakash Dahiya

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