"Introspection": How To Represent The Invisible By Mahrez Karoui

in 30th Cairo International Film Festival

by Mahrez Karoui

How can we, through an artistic language based on the visual and the perceptible, namely the cinema, report a universe which recovers rather the spiritual, even of the invisible? Such was the merit of Introspection (Sankara), the film of the director from Sri Lanka Prasanna Jayakody, presented in the official competition of the 30th Cairo International Film Festival.

From the first frames of the film which follow the credits running on a background of a wall-painting with religious connotation, we are in front of a harmony of lines, colors, sounds and gestures which settle us at once in an atmosphere of serenity, peace and quietude. The objective is very clear: put the spectator in a pure universe of Buddhism.

In fact, Ananda (Thumindhu Dodantenna), a young Buddhist monk, goes to the fine bottom of the country in order to restore tables on the walls of a temple situated in a small isolated village. This wall frescoes depict “The Lapaththa Jathakaya”, illustrating Buddha’s words as which “the man who has a big objective in the life never has to give in to the temptation in front of passion, the five senses and above all the beauty of women”.

But, the young Ananda discovers a day in a corner of the temple, a small feminine object cast on the ground. It was a hair pin, belonging to a delightful young woman of the village (Sanchiri Ayendra), left apparently by simple oversight. This however harmless and commonplace object awakens, at the young monk’s, sensations which have for a long time been repressed and repulsed in the fine bottom of his soul. While applying completely to his work of artisan which requires from him an accurate execution, Ananda shows himself sensitive to the beauty and the sensualism of the women evoked by the presence of this hair pin which becomes the reflection of the sublime beauty of her owner.

So, by trying to return her what she lost, the young monk does not any more succeed in ignoring the presence of this young woman with an angelic face. And without daring to exchange with her a single word, he begins to follow her by the glance, to guess her presence around him thanks to the noise of her bracelets when she waves by moving.

Without sinking in the vulgar history of a deprived monk who is seduced by the devilish beauty of a woman, Prasanna Jayakody composes his plans with a lot of decency and sweetness but without sacrificing the carnal and sensual side which emanates from this feminine creature every time a part of her body contacts the water.

The monk — who should get loose completely from the world of the pleasures if he wanted to release himself eternally from the suffering of the body — is confronted with his ardent desires. However this flame never appears on the surface and lives till the end as a “fire under the water”. And as invaded by a stream of emotions difficult to master, Ananda caresses more attentively figures on paintings as the music comes to confirm us that the spiritual world of the young monk is irrevocably plunged into the excitement.

The other character who appears at this moment in the narrative is nobody else than Ananda himself under a natural aspect with human impulses. Then, the works of restoration are achieved and Ananda feels deeply the need to leave at once hoping to escape this dilemma difficult to bear… But somebody enjoys damaging again the holy paintings defying all the prohibitions. We did not want that he leaves.

The pan shot on paintings illuminated towards the end of the film accompanied with a heavenly music indicated a horizon which exceeds the limits of the field of vision of the young monk trapped in the web of his desires and his attachments to this world. Introspection is certainly a first work which offers the promise of a talented author.