Friday, February 02, 2007


No word to explain it

By Edward Copeland
Following my enthusiastic response to Deepa Mehta's film Water, I decided to look back at the other two films in her unofficial trilogy and 1996's Fire was the first to arrive via GreenCine. Unfortunately, my reaction was one of disappointment.

While Water was an engrossing look at Indian culture (and earned a deserved nomination for foreign language film from the Academy), Fire plays more like a standard melodrama, trying to insert provocative subject matter such as lesbianism in India.

The Indian-born Canadian filmmaker also filmed Fire in English, unlike Water, so though it's set in modern New Delhi, it seems as if it could have just as easily taken place in Toronto or elsewhere. The title of this post comes from the film, where it mentions that Hindi has no word for lesbian but no word explains the disparity between Mehta's two films either.

Whereas Water provided several well-drawn characters, no one in Fire seems to have much depth, unless you count Kushal Rekhi as Biji, the family's decrepit matriarch who can communicate only through a bell which she rings vigorously as various characters feel it's OK to engage in Sapphic kisses or masturbation marathons in front of the poor old woman.

There are hints of deeper subject matters, such as the problems of arranged marriages or leaving bad ones in Indian culture, but none of them are drawn with much clarity. Eventually, I'll see the first film in Mehta's trilogy, Earth. I'm curious to see where that one lands because if I'd seen Fire first, I don't know that I could have expected such a deep and moving film as Water from this filmmaker.

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For those interested, here's an interview I did last year with Deepa Mehta about her film Water.

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