I saw Throne of Death at the amazing Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, an annual exhibition of independent film from around the world. Throne of Death is an odd, low budget satire of political corruption and class injustices in Indian village culture.
When Krishnan, a poor Indian laborer, is caught stealing a landowner's coconuts to feed his family, he becomes a poster boy for various political parties all jockeying for position in local elections. When the party in power frames him for an unsolved murder in order to gain support, Krishnan faces the death penalty. Enter the "throne of death," the electric chair. The film's satire intensifies as the rival Communist party takes up Krishnan's cause, not to win his freedom, but to secure for Krishnan the noble privilege of being the first to experience the glorious, peaceful death afforded by the new American invention.
The film's style is minimalist to say the least. It has the look of a home movie, with murky, poorly-lit scenes, halting dialogue, and amateurish sound quality. At times, though, the low budget appearance contributes powerfully to its satire. The electric chair, for instance, is an aluminum foil-covered rocking chair activated by a television remote control. Perhaps this is the laughable consequence of a low budget, but, more than that, it is a devilishly-ironic jab at the folly that can mistake an American-made, World Bank-funded electric chair for social progress.
I found the film slow-moving for about 40 minutes, but the end justified the wait. I recommend this film to die hard foreign film fans and anyone with a particular interest in social satire or Indian culture.
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