"Mutum": The Silence is Golden By Sudhir Nandgaonkar

in 60th Cannes Film Festival

by Sudhir Nandgaonkar

The Director’s Fortnight is a non-competitive section at the Cannes International Film Festival. Jacques Rivette and Robert Bresson, among others, created the French Director’s Guild in 1968, and a year later started the Director’s Fortnight. In its 39th year, the Director’s Fortnight attempts to highlight new talent in world cinema and usually features the film-makers of tomorrow.

The just concluded 60th edition of Cannes Film Festival had a total of 23 films in Director’s Fortnight. Out of these, more than 60 per cent were French films or French collaborative ventures. The FIPRESCI award went to the French film Her Name is Sabine (Elle s’appelle Sabine) directed by Sadrine Bonnaire.

The artistic director for Director’s Fortnight, Olivier Père, claimed this year the section consisted of works which contained a sense of discovery, audacity and emotions. Though the top honor went to Her Name is Sabine, the film that impressed me most, and I thought contained the three elements Pere mentioned was the Brazilian film Mutum, directed by Ms Sandra Kogut. Kogut’s debut feature film is a simple story of a 12-year-old boy set in a remote mountainous region in Brazil. An unpretentious presentation and a remarkably true to life cinematography are some of the highlights of the film.

Mutum means mute. The protagonist in the film is a 12-year-old boy. Mutum tells the story of this extraordinary child named Thiago. He is not mute, but speaks very little. His emotions and thoughts are reflected in his eyes. Mutum also means black bird. However, the father of the boy detests Thiago. For him, his son is the black bird in the family. The film is set in a mountainous region where horses are the chief means of transport.

Kogut has implied that Thiago’s mother is having an affair with Thiago’s uncle who left home to escape his brother’s wrath. Thiago’s mother loves him deeply but Thiago grows up under his father’s shadow. Thiago’s only friend and younger brother Felipe dies, and Thiago matures enough to understand the relationships in the family. His father kills someone in a fit of rage, and flees their home. The poor family suffers. A doctor from the city visits the village and tells Thiago that he should use spectacles to improve his vision. The mother allows Thiago to accompany the doctor to the city for education and promises to join him in the city later.

The storyline of the film is thin, but the emphasis is on depicting emotions and the psychology behind them. It is to the director’s credit that the whole story is narrated through the eyes of the protagonist Thiago, played brilliantly by Silva Mariz. We experience the gloom, the world of adults, betrayal, and the silent suffering.