QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TALLINN
This is one of the most cryptic film titles you may ever ever come across. How can a window – which is intended to enable sight – be invisible? This lyrical oxymoron neatly encapsulates the essence of this dazzling Indian movie. Our protagonist is a quiet and kind man aged roughly 40, and played by Tovino Thomas. The police arrest and place him a mad house for no apparent reason. He questions the sanity of his psychiatrist. He is eventually released and returns to his wife and and two children. Their home is very unusual: an abandoned trailer in the middle of lush and verdant tropical fields. He lands a job at the local mortuary, and quickly strikes a friendship with the souls of those who just died.
Our protagonist is a peace-loving man surrounded by unscrupulous business man and murderous criminals. The perverse inversion is evident: a loving pacifist is considered mad, while the bloodthirsty warlords see themselves as perfectly sane. Invisible Windows contains an unequivocal anti-authoritarianism and anti-war message. It repeatedly claims that people should be armed with books instead of weapons. It denounces police violence and the execution of those who dare to demand peace (such as an activist writer, our protagonist’s first dead friend in the mortuary). And it reveals the dirty machinations of the businessmen running the local factory: the facilities produce liquid phosphorus as an intended chemical weapon. A leak of the highly toxic element claims the lives of four workers. They also befriend our lead, and urge him to take action as soon as possible in order to avoid an impeding catastrophe.
Music – both diegetic and extra-diegetic – are an integral part of Dr Biju’s (whose real name is Bijukumar Damodaran) latest movie. Our lead character has crafted a strange wind-powered machine that generates music at home (the peculiar invention looks like it was taken out of a video clip or film by Michel Gondry). A band plays anti-war songs to a highly enthusiastic crowd, before the police storms in and kills several people (one of the band members has a heart attack, promptly join our protagonist’s closely-knit group of dead friends). The energetic soundtrack was composed by thrice Grammy Award-winning Indian music composer and environmentalist Ricky Kej.
While the movie clearly takes place in India, the political commentary is not directly aimed at a specific government or political figurehead. That’s because the society portrayed is detached from the Asian country as we know it. The action seemingly happens in a dystopian near-future, where large numbers of people have been forced to fend for themselves in nature, and the few functioning institutions are mostly concerned with warring and oppression. None of the characters and the places are named. Invisible Windows offers a sneak peek into the consequences of unfettered capitalisms and military belligerence.
While the intentions of our protagonist are unambiguously good, it is never entirely clear whether he’s indeed mad or not. This 125-minute movie is crafted upon many narrative layers – reality. dream and delirium -, which may or may not reflect his fragmented mind. The exuberant photography and gentle touch of magical realism are clearly reminiscent of Apichatpong Weerasetakul, particularly Memoria (2021). Except that it’s a lot less subtle and more flamboyant. While the Thai director opts for minimalistic sounds and a slow pace, Dr Biju employs an epic soundtrack, and a narrative that gradually grows and nearly culminates into a thriller is the final 15 minutes (as our “mad” hero and his wife finally seek justice with their own hands). Invisible Windows is a noteworthy art film, just not a masterpiece.
Invisible Windows just premiered in the Official Selection of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.