Labour of Love

“King Solomon’s ring bore the inscription, ‘All will pass’; by contrast, I want to draw attention to how time in its moral implication is in fact turned back. Time can vanish without trace in our material world for it is a subjective, spiritual category. [But] the time we have lived settles in our soul as an experience placed within time.” — Andrei Tarkovsky

Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s film Labour of Love (2014) portrays one day in the life of a lower middle-class couple. She cooks, cleans, changes her clothes, goes down the elevator, walks through the lane and takes a tram to her workplace. After a while, he takes a bath, prays, feeds the cat, does nothing in particular, cycles to the corner shop to buy groceries, and returns home to change into formal clothes. She comes back in the evening to an empty house, while the husband has just left for his night shift. The next morning, she wakes up and shares a few moments of quiet love with him, before they both return to living out the same routine again. In this manner, the most simple of human experiences are portrayed in all honesty and clarity, and in silence that has as its backdrop the sounds inside and outside the house. At certain points, this very movingly realistic portrait of human life transforms into sheer magic when the sublime shehnai of Ustad Bismillah Khan or a charming old melody of Geeta Dutt plays in the background.

There is no story to tell, there is no dialogue and there are no dramatic flourishes. It is an ordinary day in the life of two ordinary persons – solitary, lonely, sometimes sad, sometimes lost, at times joyous and loving, and usually resigned to the routine of their lives. An inner emptiness manages to peep through every once in a while, and so does the near absence of nature and the isolation of the human being in an overcrowded, mechanical city. Yet, one loves this man and woman whose names one doesn’t know but whose plain, uneventful lives one shares for 90 minutes in a way far more intimate than one would through any conventional film.

labour of love

The sheer ordinariness of everyday life and the filmmaker’s compassion for it make Labour of Love an immensely moving film, a document of human life in its various hues. It is a reminder that our lives are not what happens to us in moments of spectacle but in the ways in which we live every single moment. It is the experiential quality of such moments that makes the life of a person what it is. This what was cinema was meant to be – a testament of the human experience recorded in time, moment to moment. It is a testament that reminds us that every moment is precious and holds an intrinsic sacredness which we can become aware of only when we stop running away from the moment towards places that seem more comfortable or entertaining. When denial, escape and attachment fall away, the beauty of the moment reveals itself. It is cinema’s destiny to illuminate this fact and Labour of Love does just that.

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~ by tdcatss on July 1, 2015.

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