Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
New Images Of Kristen Stewart In Stoner Comedy 'American Ultra' And Sci-Fi 'Equals' New Images Of Kristen Stewart In Stoner Comedy 'American Ultra' And Sci-Fi 'Equals' ‘Game Of Thrones’ Will Probably End After Season 8, But HBO Is Open To Prequels & More ‘Game Of Thrones’ Will Probably End After Season 8, But HBO Is Open To Prequels & More The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far Relativity Puts 'Jane Got A Gun' And More Up For Sale As They Fight Off Bankruptcy Relativity Puts 'Jane Got A Gun' And More Up For Sale As They Fight Off Bankruptcy Zack Snyder Says Batman Has A "Crisis Of Conscience" In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Plus New Pics Zack Snyder Says Batman Has A "Crisis Of Conscience" In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Plus New Pics Venice 2015 Line-Up: 'Equals' With Kristen Stewart, 'Beasts Of No Nation,' 'The Danish Girl,' More Venice 2015 Line-Up: 'Equals' With Kristen Stewart, 'Beasts Of No Nation,' 'The Danish Girl,' More Watch: 4-Minute Tribute To Lars von Trier's Masterful Film Work Watch: 4-Minute Tribute To Lars von Trier's Masterful Film Work New 'Deadpool' Images, Ryan Reynolds Distances Himself From 'X-Men: Origins' New 'Deadpool' Images, Ryan Reynolds Distances Himself From 'X-Men: Origins' TIFF Images: Emma Watson In 'Colonia,' Brie Larson In 'Room,' Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' And More TIFF Images: Emma Watson In 'Colonia,' Brie Larson In 'Room,' Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' And More Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Watch: Blu-Ray Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Plus 11 New Clips From The Film Watch: Blu-Ray Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Plus 11 New Clips From The Film The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances Watch: New Trailer For 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Blu-ray Release Explores Who Killed The World Watch: New Trailer For 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Blu-ray Release Explores Who Killed The World Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

LFF '11 Review: Michael Winterbottom's 'Trishna' Is Picturesque, But Entirely Lacking In Passion

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist October 22, 2011 at 7:28AM

Over his career, Michael Winterbottom has hopped frequently from genre to genre, from subject matter to subject matter, rarely covering the same territory twice. But one of the few things he has returned to is the work of Thomas Hardy. The late 19th century British author has so far inspired two of the director's films: 1995's "Jude," an adaptation of "Jude the Obscure" with Kate Winslet, and "The Claim," a version of "The Mayor of Casterbridge" moved to a Californian mountain Western setting.
2


Over his career, Michael Winterbottom has hopped frequently from genre to genre, from subject matter to subject matter, rarely covering the same territory twice. But one of the few things he has returned to is the work of Thomas Hardy. The late 19th century British author has so far inspired two of the director's films: 1995's "Jude," an adaptation of "Jude the Obscure" with Kate Winslet, and "The Claim," a version of "The Mayor of Casterbridge" moved to a Californian mountain Western setting.

Both are very strong, firmly in tune with Hardy's bleak originals, so when it was announced that Winterbottom was going back to the well for "Trishna," a loose adaptation of "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" (a Hardy novel previously done by Roman Polanski in "Tess" and more recently, a BBC miniseries starring Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne), for a version set in contemporary India, hope was high that it'd be another home run for the filmmaker. Unfortunately, those hopes have come to nothing; "Trishna" is as disappointing a film as any that Winterbottom has made.


Jay (Riz Ahmed from "Shifty" and "Four Lions," among many others), is the British-raised son of an Indian hotel magnate, who's moved back to the homeland to work in the family trade. At one hotel in Rajasthan, he notices Trishna ("Slumdog Millionaire" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" star Freida Pinto), a waitress from a poor family. When her family's livelihood, an expensive Jeep, is written off in an accident, injuring Trishna and her father, Jay steps in, offering her a high-paying job in a hotel in state capital Jaipur. While there, and across the running time, the two circle each other, sparking off a relationship that can only end in tragedy.

The director (who's also credited with the screenplay, although the dialogue was largely improvised), his first solo writing job since "9 Songs") has made some pretty radical changes to the source material -- not only has he shifted the setting halfway across the world (almost the only way you could bring it up to date and still make it work), but also cutting many of the characters and plot elements, most notably combining the two male leads of the novel, Alec and Angel, into Ahmed's Jay. Neither change is particularly problematic; it's easy to see why the decision was made. Instead, the problem comes from Winterbottom seemingly forgetting what made his previous adaptations work.

The most obvious roadblock is the casting. Ahmed is typically excellent, charming and likable at first, something of a Prince Charming, but with a controlling element in his persona which becomes more and more prominent as time goes on. Unfortunately, his counterpart can't match him. Tess is always a tricky role -- she's a passive character, pushed through a selection of suffering like a von Trier protagonist, so it needs a really strong actress to make it work. Pinto is, clearly, one of the most beautiful women in the world, and maybe the only actress who could have got the film financed, but she's also yet to demonstrate that she's got any real screen presence; even in the most dramatic scenes, she virtually fades into the wallpaper. In her hands, Trishna is such an opaque blank, so devoid of personality, that it's hard to care much what happens to her one way or the other.

But, in all fairness, Winterbotttom doesn't give her very much to work with. For a start, while his eye for modern-day India is more authentic and less flashy than Danny Boyle's in 'Slumdog,' he doesn't really set up the world that well. It's a major plot point that even in this day and age, a relationship between Trishna and Jay would be frowned up on in Rajasthan, not in Bombay, but it's not made clear until late in the film, and never really explained why, which means that the stakes feel minimal throughout.

For the second occasion in recent memory ("Like Crazy" was the most recent offender), the semi-improvised approach has proven to be something of a self-thwarting one -- it might give it some degree of authenticity, but it also makes it, frankly, kind of boring; functional, sure, but no one has anything very interesting to say. And ultimately, all the authenticity in the world doesn't mean a thing if there's no life to it.

And that's the great issue here; there's no life. "Jude" and "The Claim" have their flaws, but they get the most important thing right about the source material -- the fire in the belly. Here, everything seems timid and passionless, Winterbottom is more interested in picturesque locations than making it seem that his characters care about anything. It's a flip of the coin to another film bowing tonight at the BFI London Film Festival -- Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights." Arnold takes a similar approach to Winterbottom, a bold reinvention of a classic that places just as great an emphasis on its environment as its characters. But where Arnold uses it as an extension of the savagery of Heathcliff and co, here you feel like you're watching Winterbottom's holiday video, that happens to have some actors wandering in and out of it.

By the end, it's drifting into self parody, much of the last 40 minutes of the film being made up of endless shots of Trishna bringing Jay food on a tray. It all looks as good as you'd expect, Winterbottom's usual DoP Marcel Zyskind delivering some glorious work in places. And again, the music is terrific, with fine work from Shigeru Umebayashi (with songs from Amit Trivedi). But the meat of the film is sadly, a tedious misstep for a director who, even when he's experimented in the past, has generally come up with something more interesting than this. It is, however, still better than "9 Songs" [D]

This article is related to: Films, Actors, Actresses, Short Film, Michael Winterbottom, Trishna, Riz Ahmed, Freida Pinto, BFI London Film Festival


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates