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Heaven on Earth (2008)
Old wine in new bottle
I have borrowed all lines from other reviews to make a summary of my own:
A vibrant and lovely girl, Preity Zinta as Chand flies to Canada to marry a man she has never met. Ironically enough, Chand's new family in the First World lives a poor, miserable lifestyle. Soon Chand becomes a brutally battered and abused wife who bears the brunt of her husband, Rocky's frustration. An intelligent audience doesn't need to see all out, emotional, crying scene to justify actions. A man sitting in a car, lost in though, is more than enough. Rocky isn't shown as a monster, he is shown as a very flawed man who doesn't understand how to deal with his problems, taking his anger out on those weaker than him.
Chand is who she is. A girl in a new land. A girl with expectations. Trapped within a system of willing accomplices. She suffers, she aches, she misses her mother, her country, she is desperate thinking that she will have to live the rest of her life with a bunch of monsters, yet she never really loses her sense of life. She does not blame anyone, she does not hate anyone, she seeks solace using her imagination. She creates a world that is better, and lives it. She creates a "Heaven on Earth".
It may be slow paced but it’s still engaging and compact. This is a film that confronts so many issues in a very muted and delicate manner. No, I am not talking about domestic abuse. This is an explosive issue, and is dealt with as such. There are issues of expectations…of survival…of denial, of how young ones react - the subtle explorations of the human mind and nature - these are the ones to watch out for.
We, as the viewers of this small snapshot in a girl's life, are forced to consider the definitions of mental health. Who is insane? The one that hallucinates? The one that is violent? The one that manipulates? The one that witnesses? All silently-screaming puppets on a string being maneuvered into a life of domesticated dereliction by forces that we could designate as fate or just cruel blows of workaday drudgery…
Deepa Mehta stays away from the stereotypical 'Don't-hit-me' pitiable victim and also 'I'll-hit-you-back' kind of liberating experience approach. Mehta doesn't play out any moments of redemption or payback. She simply offers us survival, intelligently integrating magical realism in a rather artistic way. Every time Chand is maltreated by her husband, she starts whispering beautiful, beautiful poetry. When she's alone, she imagines a better life, she imagines she is a beloved woman and wife. All the sequences involving the snake may be confusing and unclear, but what I find great about these essentially surreal incidents is that every viewer is free to interpret them just the way he/she wants to.