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I just saw this at TIFF today, and feel like I must write about it.
A lot has been written about this film, so I'm going to focus on a few things that struck me about it. First, it's exquisitely beautiful; set in the mountains of Nepal, we watch as various people and animals go up and down the mountain in a cable car, to and from the Manakamana temple housing a goddess. So, there's not a lot of action, there's no "story", no narration, no guide to help us understand what's going on. But if we're mindful, if we 'go' towards the film, to whatever is happening in that cable car, then the rewards are many. And it's likely somewhat different for each of us.
At first I felt like a voyeur, watching what I imagine was a grandfather and grandson going up. They didn't speak, and the grandfather looked like he might have felt a little self-conscious, but that might have just been my projection. The next person was a single woman bringing what looked like an offering. She too seemed a little tense, and again, it's hard to know why – anticipation of meeting the goddess? the camera? the cable car ride? something else entirely? Then on come people who speak to each other, and it's both a relief and takes a little away from the mindfulness, because our attention is now focused both on what they're saying and on the actual action of sitting in a moving cable car with a staggeringly gorgeous background.
A few of my favourite passengers:
The three elderly wives who've left their husband (it seems that they're all married to one man) at home. They calmly sit in a row; the two at the ends chat, while the third middle one is silent except for a short prayer toward the end of their ride.
The three young bar musicians provide quite a contrast to the three wives; they chat, they are young, and they are in constant motion. The seat seems too small for them, and yet they are not overweight at all.
Like everyone, I loved the comic relief of the two women eating ice cream, with the dynamics of one having a plastic bag to catch the melting confectionery, while the other had to make do with the wrapping and her clothing.
The two musicians who play as they descend – it was almost too much sensory input! We have been treated to such incredible visual stimulation, and now the auditory experience of the music—I had to close my eyes because I couldn't handle the intensity of the input from two senses.
There's so much more, but the best thing to do is see the film. Be prepared though, because if you're not ready to reach for it, it will be "boring", as one person said at the screening today. We are as equally responsible for the 'action' as are the filmmakers.
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