LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: THE HUNGRY – the second feature from Bornila Chatterjee – screened at Rich Mix last night (08 OCT). Here’s our writeup.
THE HUNGRY (2017, UK, 100min)
Ever felt that William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is a mess of confused plotting, too many identikit characters and uncomfortable levels of über-violence? Then Bornila Chatterjee’s revamp THE HUNGRY might be for you. It’s a delicious balsamic reduction of Shakespeare’s populist nightmare, stripping away depth and complexity but still leaving us with a bloody banquet of power, greed and revenge.
Like Joss Whedon, Chatterjee and her producing partners Kurban Kassam and Tanaji Dasgupta choose to set their reduced Shakespeare in the rooms and grounds of an elite household. Opening setup aside, the drama is staged on the eve of a New Delhi wedding as extravagant preparations are underway to unite by blood two families previously bound by business.
“Make time to enjoy – it’s bloody important”
Chatterjee and director of photography Nick Cooke cleverly use these close confines to give the feud an appropriate sense of scale and significance, summoning the state of modern India and far out-stepping their micro-budget. Only momentarily – with a tainted cocaine-induced death – do the inevitable restrictions share the creakiness of some of the Bard’s clumsier staging.
The adaptation refocuses on the much abused woman at the heart of the original – Tamora becoming Tulsi (Tisca Chopra) – whilst retaining several of its signature atrocities. What happens to Lavinia/Loveleen (Sayani Gupta) takes place off stage (ref Shakespeare) but its gruesome onscreen aftermath lends this film some its most indelible images. It’s a signature lesson in adaptation, only weaving back to the source, in often obscure ways, after extreme departures.
“I have made a feast with my own hands”
By chance, THE HUNGRY is our second film directed by a women in two days (see SPOOR) in which murder is vengeful and animals act with the dignity humans lack (domesticated goats taking over from Agnieszka Holland’s woodland wildlife). It’s also a film founded on its experienced cast which adds depth to the depravity. Rounding out the triumvirate of A-grade stars, Naseeruddin Shah (Titus/Tathagat – aka “Daddy”) and Neeraj Kabi (Aaron/Arun) give this steely film significant weight.
Overall, it’s the kind of micro-budget big-minded movie we want more of, reminding us of Roger Corman’s excellent THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and other Poes. It delivers bold B-movie thrills with contemporary style and sensibility and we mean that as the highest of compliments.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- Check out THE HUNGRY, Bornila Chatterjee, Nick Cooke, Tisca Chopra, Sayani Gupta, Naseeruddin Shah and Neeraj Kabi on IMDb.
- THE HUNGRY screened in the DARE strand at the BFI London Film Festival 2017: “”In-your-face, up-front and arresting: films that take you out of your comfort zone.”
- Read our Festival preview here and our daily writeups here.
- THE HUNGRY was made with funding, mentoring and development support from Film London’s Microwave scheme, International branch.
- THE HUNGRY is slated for streaming by Amazon Video (not currently listed).
- Don’t just take our blogging word for it: DOG & WOLF and VARIETY weren’t impressed…
Featured images: THE HUNGRY (2017).