Thursday, July 1, 2010

Heaven on Earth (2008)

Obviously, this is the first film I've seen from Canadian director Deepa Mehta who was described to me as a filmmaker who doesn't miss an opportunity to express her political views. If you're interested by Heaven on Earth, it will astonish you by its combination of honesty, subtlety and fantasy.

Chand (Preity Zinta) lives in Ludhiana, a Punjabi city of India, with her family. One day, she leaves India and flies to Canada. Indeed, she'll marry Rocky (Vansh Bhardwaj), a man she has never met who must support his family. Rocky's family include his parents and his sister, her husband and their two children. Once in Canada, Rocky no longer looks like a shy man to Chand after their mariage. In fact, during their honeymoon, Rocky starts to physically abuse her with the tacit consent of his family who doesn't have that much sympathy for Chand.

Eventually, Rocky finds a job for Chand at a factory in which the manager happens to be an acquaintance of his. Besides, Rocky makes sure that Chand's paycheque gets deposited directly into his bank account so that he can reinforce his control over Chand. However, at work, Chand, who has learnt some English, meets a co-worker who hails from Jamaica and has managed to emancipate herself from a violent husband. With all the advices given by that co-worker, will Chand decide to divorce from Rocky?

Obviously, what the film clearly lacks in subtlety, it makes up for it with its brutal honesty. With an open performance, Preity Zinta and Vansh Bhardwaj allows the film to build its critique of arranged marriage in Indian tradition and the subjugation of women. Besides, the leading actors' performance brilliantly shows us a couple in which the two "married" people can't deeply love each other. This is because Rocky sees Chand as another cash cow that can help him support his family and make his brother come to Canada. After all, Rocky's brother-in-law can't find a job so imagine the pressure that Rocky must live with.

In addition to that, the film is a tour de force, because it's not afraid to tell it like it is about some immigrants, especially some non-white immigrants who mock our values of equality and freedom. Indeed, the film is deeply critical about the way how many non-white women receive their citizenship and are kept at an arm's length from the Canadian society. Therefore, this makes it hard for a small segment of our population to know their rights.

Finally, in the third quarter, Heaven on Earth becomes a little bit boring. While the film wanes the momentum it had built, it keeps showing how Rocky's family members are accomplices to his physical abuse over Chand. Obviously, by the time we've reached the end, we've already understood that Rocky and his family 1) sees Chand in economic terms; and 2) despise Chand, which is a tacit toleration of physical abuse. Despite that, Heaven on Earth remains a well-constructed story that easily blends storytelling and social/political criticism.

Origin:Canada (2008)
Length:106 minutes
Screenplay:Deepa Mehta
Director:Deepa Mehta
Starring:Preity Zinta and Vansh Bhardwaj

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