Vagabond – A story of a woman who eliminated her fears

A scene from the film Vagabond directed by Agnes Varda

The dichotomy of public and private space seemed just a jargon until I realized how far a woman remains controlled, especially in the public space.  Unlike men, women are supposed to be more coy and mindful in the public space. It is really difficult to conduct a debate over a topic focusing on the division of behavioral pattern on the basis of gender that has been normalized by the society. Raising an eyebrow against such a societal pattern is like creating a storm. When I started growing up, I was exposed to classic cinema and literature unlike many girls of my age. They made me realize that women are not mere agent to pacify others’ wishes and longings. In fact, they like any man long to have her own time and fun. Unlike what many men wrongly believe, every woman has a restless soul and critical mind until unless her intellect has been purposefully subdued to such an extent that she remains ignorant and unaware about her own inner desires and feelings.

When Mona spends time with a goat farmer

Women tend to define and limit their idea of adventure to just fit in the common framework of the society. The society loves to control their mind and body by categorically mentioning the appropriate and inappropriate indulgences for women. There are judgmental eyes roving all around to label a woman as a slut, whore, sinful, goddess, etc. by merely scrutinizing her from head to toe and not paying any damn attention to her thinking mind and perturbed heart.  Many readers after reading this might say, “Well, you are not saying anything new. So, why don’t you stop blabbering and speak something new.”

There have been times when I have looked out through my window in the darkness and dreamt of walking in the empty streets of my city. I have also dreamt of sitting under a tree and watching the sky turning from crimson red to pitch black to the shades of yellow and red. I also yearned to travel alone in a train running past beautiful landscapes dotted with trees and huts, getting down any random station to sip a cup of coffee, start a conversation with a stranger, among others. However, it is difficult to be absolutely free to indulge in our dreams, especially when one is born as a woman. She needs to take steps toward her dreams by ensuring safety. If she has no money, she cannot dare to live her dreams. If she has to exercise total freedom, she must be ready to witness disruptions and hurdles that may range from molestation, assault to characterization as a whore.  In sum, a woman with desires is seen as nothing more than a willful woman. This  has been well presented by none other than the renowned French woman director, Agnes Varda.

Through her path-breaking film, Vagabond, Agnes succeeds in portraying the innate emotions and desires of a woman so far not presented by anyone in the celluloid world. I remember talking about this film during my college days. Even in those days, the fate of the protagonist immensely disturbed me. Raised on classic cinema and literature, it had always been difficult for me to accept the division of role among women and men on the basis of gender. Therefore, it was totally impossible for me to comprehend the extremely discriminatory behavioral patterns imposed on women in the society. So, somewhere down the line, the film Vagabond resonates my and innumerable other women’s feelings.

This poetic tale of a beautiful and thoughtful woman who one fine day decides to throw away her job of a secretary and wander around the French countryside will make every woman to contemplate about their life and yearnings. The protagonist of the film chose the toughest season of the time, i.e., winter to camp around, which is enough to draw attention of the locals and strangers. Though her decision and step may sound erratic and not worth taking risk, her journey and encounters and experiences widen her horizon as an individual by bringing her closer to the truly free life that she wanted to live. In between, some of the women who happened to meet her felt more connected to her than freely sympathetic toward her miserable condition. They feel as if she is living the dream that they too wanted to live one day. However, nothing comes for free, so even the protagonist had to witness assault, humiliation, poverty, etc. to live her dream. Though she meets a fatal end, her journey remains inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s difficult for me to pen down the exact emotions that surged within me while watching this film. I can define them to be closer to poetic, longing, dreamy, etc.

Beyond the mundane structures of the society, the protagonist, named Mona, truly lives her life by meeting and observing the world. She met people who loved her, detested her, humiliated her and used her, yet it’s Mona who stands taller than others. Some of the beautiful scenes of the film include when she passes her time by blissfully sleeping in the arms of a new lover, indulging in wine and sumptuous food, and lazing around the backyard of an empty mansion.

Sometimes she traded her body to earn her living and sometimes she just wandered around with her backpack. She learns new trades to survive when she meets a Tunisian farmer who truly cared for her. If I can put my heart into my writing, then I can say that I loved her uninhibited life devoid of any ambition and the feeling of loss or pain. She is truly a survivor and dreamer. It also seems that she is not living her dreams rather living her life by eliminating her fears. She has no fear of living on streets, no fear of any man, no fear of not leading a normal life, which makes her more fascinating and interesting than all of us.

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MON ONCLE – A Review

Image result for mon oncle

Some movies have the tendency to impact the mind of the cinemagoers forever. The impact is so powerful that each and every scene of the movie remains etched in the memory. Irrespective of the time and space, one can still feel the sensation as felt while watching the film.  One of such movies is without any iota of doubt is the classic French film titled “Mon Oncle.” Directed by one of the greatest directors, Jacques Tati, this movie is a comical take on the consequences of growing industrialization and increased dependence on technology. It simultaneously draws attention of the viewers toward the difference between bourgeoisie and proletariat class. It’s a light-hearted visual comedy that leaves the feeling of pleasure and happiness at the end. The charm of the movie is in its unsophisticated portrayal of the daily life of the both classes. Under the brilliant direction of Tati, the easy-going characters and scenes seem extremely believable. It’s extremely endearing to see the way Tati, who also plays the role of the protagonist in the film, brings forth the key theme before the audience and leaves it upon the audience to draw the main lessons out of the entire film.

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As rightly stated by many reviewers, the entire effortlessly shot movie revolves around Tati’s character, Hulot, a simpleton living in a room on the roof. What struck a chord in my heart were the lovely people in the neighborhood of Hulot’s place who shared admirable camaraderie. The amusing life of blue collar workers, such as sweepers, vegetable vendors, etc., is like a treat for the eyes of the audience. Unlike other main characters, Hulot enjoys frolicking around in the city, both alone and with his nephew, Gerard. Despite being unemployed and confused, a matter of grave concern for his sister and her husband, he continues to be care-free and entertaining, least bothered by the rejection for his antics at the new job. The main attraction of the entire film is the antics and prances of Hulot that leave the audience in a fit of laughter. The coming together of the characters obsessed with home-based technology and a simpleton like Hulot leads to a series of amusing mishaps. The cons of leading a life controlled by technology have also been shown in an interesting manner. Some of the amusing cons include the locking up of Hulot’s sister and her husband in their highly technical garage, their inability to conduct a normal conversation due to the constant irritating noise of the machines running in the kitchen, etc. The funniest part of the film is the way fountain is switched on as an exhibit based on the status of the visitor. This shows how technology is used by the bourgeoisie to compete with each other, unlike the proletariats living in the neighborhood of Hulot.

One of the most fascinating parts of the film is the sweet bond between Hulot and Gerard. Unlike his parents, Gerards looks up to Hulot and is always ready to frolic around with him. While he is a fun-loving boy enjoying company of other boys playing innocent pranks on others and eating street food, he looks totally exhausted and bored in his spacious technologically controlled home. He is bored of talking to the guests from his neighborhood due to their superficial mannerisms and foolish conversations. These scenes give an insight into the materialistic and consumerist lifestyle of the bourgeoisie class. Though made as early as 1958, it a movie that stands as relevant as ever. In this age of addiction to mobile phones, movies like Mon Oncle are quite essential.