Directed by: Aneek Chaudhuri and William Matzhold Written by: Aneek Chaudhuri Starring: Sayanti Chattoraj, Kaushik Roy, Anik Chattoraj, Mehuli Das, Priyanka Dey, Tanushree Das, Indie Film Review: by Chris Olson
The concept of silence in the current political climate is a fascinating discussion, especially when we explore the often awful experiences of women in certain professions and walks of life. The use of silence in film has been equally as fascinating, in its power and effect, when filmmakers tackle heavy themes. One such filmmaker, Aneek Chaudhuri, has brought both these discussions to the fore with his artistic and impactful indie film White, which explores the issue of rape, using three stories and a lot of silence.
More like visual poetry than narrative cinema, Chaudhuri has previously proven himself as a filmmaker worth watching for his approach to cinematography in his movies. With White, he couples this flair with meaningful character journeys without much (or any exposition). The experiences of the characters he follows are told through long, dialogue-free sequences, often with a static camera and low lighting. During the initial third of White, the camera spends a lot of time looking at Sayanti Chattoraj (who is sublime by the way) as she goes about simple tasks such as eating or knitting, all with a growing sense of foreboding. This level of intimacy is essential to the success of White as a parable on the heavier themes at large, which mainly deals with how a woman would/could cope after being raped.
By including no dialogue, and approaching each aspect of the story on a more physical level, the experience becomes that much more emotional for the viewer. As the scenes of trivial daily chores are surrounded by a naturalistic soundscape, or a formidable score from Siddhartha and Chatterjee, the tension is built and released using a less obvious structure than lines delivered from performers.
Whilst Chaudhuri’s film does deliver on a visual and emotional level, there do exist a couple of issues with his approach. The first of which is the lack of connection from the viewer to the victim. Without the backstory and details of her suffering, the audience will be unable to fully understand the details of what’s going on unless they have done further reading about the film beforehand. Another problem is the heavy reliance on the musical score. At times it beautifully complements the scenes and adds large amounts of pathos and tone, however, at others it is a massive hindrance on the emotional impact of a scene, taking over as a bludgeoning noise.
That all being said, White should be commended for attempting to voice the voiceless by gagging itself. The bold filmmaking approach is worthy of the attention of all patrons, and should spark a terrific debate surrounding the nature of these stories and why silence would be the weapon of choice for Chaudhuri. Is he saying that these crimes typically go unpunished? Are the victims marginalised and even ostracised? Does more need to be done to find the voice for anyone experiencing such horrific treatment? Or is Chaudhuri saying all of the above and more?