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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Sydney Film Festival (17) Barrie Pattison reviews Dark in the White Light (Vimukthi Jayasundara, Sri Lanka, 2015, 82 minutes)

Sulanga Gini Aran/Dark in the White Light 

Odd half narrative movie from Vimukthi Jayasundara, who is not a name on everybody’s lips though he’s made eight movies since he carried off  the 2005 Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, running foul of the Sri Lankan military government and scarpering for Paris as a result.

His career is curious, making difficult (half narrative) films which play in festivals, galleries and French art cinemas, showing the Hubert Bals Foundation who bank roll him some return on their investment.

He is a disciple of the sixties art film makers. The current Sulanga Gini Aran/Dark in the White Light opens in the best Antonioni manner with waves breaking on rocks before we get into the narration of ex-medical student Ruvin De Silva, who switched to being a monk (sequence of his head being shaved), explaining that doctors only know about life and not death while the Death God (who we also hear about in Psycho Raman) rules the world, with even Lord Buddha subservient to him - OK take that on board.

The unassuming director warned the audience not to expect strong narrative. The minimal technique is adequate for his purpose. A sort of a plot does develop, with broker Mahendra Perera spruiking clients with the notion that they don’t need two kidneys and are making money while doing a good deed donating one, and bullying bald surgeon Steve De La Zilwa proving to have a sideline in doping and raping female patients. It takes quite a while for De La Zilwa and Perera go off into the jungle with a shovel and a bottle of fuel. In the mean time we’ve had a primal scream, some enlightenment dialogue and a preying mantis perching on De Silva’s bare head.

Atmosphere is the film’s strongest element - the grubby city contrasted the damp uncontaminated foliage.

Jayasundara comes from a quite vigorous Sri Lankan film industry - thirty films a year - about the size of the Australian operation. How many Australian films are playing in Sri Lankan festivals right now?

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