Sunday, April 6, 2008


This is the latest film by director Sunil Ariyaratne, who is better known as a lyricist and playwright. The film stars Sangeetha Weeraratne, Malini Fonseka and new comer Roshan Ravindra.
The story follows the protagonist; a young Buddhist nun (Sangeetha) who is attempting to live the monastic life. Her peace is disrupted when she encounters a young insurgent (Roshan) who is a member of a Marxist party as he flees from a murder scene. This begins a taboo relationship that will change the lives of all concerned.

While watching this film it was apparent that the style and format of storytelling has not changed since the 1960s. The pace and mood of the film was miserably slow.
American cinema is renowned for its fast paced storytelling, due to the fact that instant gratification is needed by the audience. European cinema is comparatively slower as its audiences require more character depth in its stories. Asian cinema is even slower as their audiences tend to be passive in the absorption of the film.
But even by Asian film standards, Sri Lankan cinema is at snail speed. The filmmakers have held strong to the delusion that slow pace evokes emotional depth. It’s high time the filmmakers realized that speeding up the pace does not sacrifice story or character growth.

Veteran actress Malini Fonseka is out of her element as the chief nun. Her character’s existence is simply to remind the audience of the do’s and don’t of monastic life. She simply reiterates the rules of the nunnery throughout the film without any character development. Another meaningless character in this film was the little nun. Her sole purpose was to be the model of correction.
The male lead (Roshan) was incapable of acquiring any empathy from us. He was the epitome of an uncharismatic actor. Roshan Ravindra who is a noted TV actor needs to stick to his day job!
The experienced actress Sangeetha fell far below the standard of even amateur dramatics. She was clearly miscast as she had a consistently dazed look throughout the film. Sangeetha’s indifference to the role left the inner turmoil of her character unexplored. A note to Ms Weeraratne; merely shaving your head does not automatically make you the character, you have to commit to the role physically as well as mentally!

Dr. Tissa Abeysekara's screenplay was so bland it left little for the actors to work with. The dialogue was monotonous and at times redundant. Besides having many uninteresting story arcs, this screenplay included the clich├ęd, overused "rich girl falls in love with poor boy but rich girl's parents try to break them up" storyline.
“No sleeping on back, no bodily touching, no water frolicking, no scrubbing feet,” etc were some of the many absurd attempts to express Buddhist piety. This is a good example of Buddhist theory without practice. There were far too many monologues and not enough dialogue.
One of the many meaningless plot points was the murder of the son-in-law at the funeral of the mother-in-law. Although this is a key plot twist it was very artificially constructed and was out of place. The mother character's (Chandani Seneviratne) attempt to kill her son’s murderer in a blind rage, only to be stopped by a monk with a simple word of restraint was ridiculous and altogether laughable.
Sri Lankan screenplays tend to become preachy and this hinders the story development. The screenwriters need to stop the melodramatic, drawn-out, pathetic story arcs and create something fresh.

The only redeeming quality was the use of landscape in the cinematography. The filmmakers were able to capture the natural beauty of the village environment.

A film actor is only as good as the guidance received by their director. With this rule in mind Professor Sunil Ariyaratne truly displays his lack of formal, institutional training in the cinema arts. The dubbing was amateur at best, and totally mismatched the synchronization of video and audio. Sound design/editing was so poor the jungle sounds effects over the dialogue was repetitive and annoying! The director is at fault for the constant indication by the actors. Indication is the flaw when an actor overacts to a situation rather than ‘react’!

The French Cinema birthed ‘New Wave’, the Germans created ‘Expressionism’, the Italians fashioned ‘Neo Realism’, the Americans spawned the ‘Hollywood Blockbuster’ and even the Indians produced their brand of ‘Bollywood Music Video/Fashion Show Musicals’. But what has our beloved Sri Lanka contributed to the sphere of World Cinema? We have ceremoniously named it, ‘Depressionism Cinema’, where the most happy-go-lucky guy will seriously consider suicide after watching a Sri Lankan art-house film. Unfortunately UPPALAVANNA continues the long tradition of our ‘Depressionist’ film movement.

Rating: 1 COCONUT

Pieries & Fernando

1 comment:

Olivier S Meier said...

Wow. So the very first Sinhala movie you decide to critique gets a single coconut. Nice. :) Good luck with the project. Looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say about a movie I may have seen; after all ..."Mage Sinhala Kaka".