Thursday, 27 November 2014 – 5:30pm IST | Place: DNA Webdesk | Agency: DNA
Two films that I found held a common thread at the 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa were Three Hearts and Little England. The premise in both films portrayed two sisters choosing the same man. Of course, the sisters are very close to each other, adding a twist to both the stories. Let’s see how the two films treat the common theme.
In Three Hearts, a man misses the last train from a provincial town in France and is forced to spend the night there. The place is unfamiliar to him and he seeks the help of a random girl he comes across to find a good hotel. She shows him a few and they start a conversation, finding out that they have common likes and end up spending the night in each other’s happy company discussing many things. By the time he leaves in the morning, they are on the verge of falling in love. So they arrange to meet again. Providence intervenes and he has a near heart attack and has to get medical help which prevents him from getting to the venue in time. She finds the wait too long and leaves. None is able to reach the other since they did not exchange addresses or phone numbers.
When Mark does not keep the appointment, Sylvie goes back to the man she was in arelationship and leaves the country. Now, in Sylvie’s absence her sister Sophie finds it extremely difficult to manage the accounts of their antic furniture business and Mark, who is a tax inspector, gallantly offers to help. Though the two sisters have Skype conversations across the ocean, Mark and Sylvie come face to face only during the wedding of Mark and Sophie. The events that follow next and the twist at the end make you wonder if what we saw was an alternative reality of the events that transpired in the lives of the three individuals.
The other film, Little England is set on an island off the coast of Greece where almost every man goes off to the sea. As the men circumnavigate the globe, their wives are confined to the island, tending to the house and their children. Mina, whose husband is similarly away, has two daughters. The elder one Orsa, has given her heart to Spiros since the age of 12 and the two are used to meeting clandestinely. But Spiros is poor and Mina would not have a less-than-rich son-in-law. So Orsa has to marry Nikos who has a large mansion on the island. The infuriated Spiros works very hard to become a captain himself and then marries Mosha, the younger sister. Both couples occupy the two floors of Mina’s house which leads to a very peculiar situation.
And then comes the war. The rest of the plot follows what happens in the war and how the family deals with the after effects of it.
There was a lot to notice in Little England, though it traversed the typical ‘classical’ course where characters are defined as archetypes and remain true to their roles throughout the tale. It was a period film set in the 30s and the 40s. The costumes, the interactions between the women trapped in matrimony, their small ambitions and shallow pleasures provide a multiplicity of interesting angles. The film does drag a little towards the end, but the detail more than compensates for the predictable progression.
Three Hearts, on the other hand appeared contrived and overblown. First, the viewer is asked to accept that there is nothing odd about two strangers meeting late in the night and spending the night just roaming about. Then the viewer is also asked to believe that the time spent is so significant that the woman thereafter remains permanently attached to the man in her mind. The man, a tax consultant, of his own admission, has met many women and the two women run an antic shop which constantly brings them in contact with men. But both of them fall for the perfectly common taxman as if they were starved of male company.
It is possible to have an ordinary story as a frame to hang a lot of novelties in technique; but that was not the case and the viewer came out of the cinema hall wondering what was so special about a two-timing tax inspector, even if the performances made everything look plausible.