One up on Slackistan and headed in the right direction
I went to watch this film with no preconceptions; I'd read the synopsis and have an interest in independent Pakistani cinema- the trickle there is of it anyway. The film is a lament (for want of a better word) to Pakistan's descent into social chaos and bereft morality. The film is littered with metaphors and subtle nuances but I suspect some will only become apparent after repeated viewing. But that in itself is a compliment to the film, I want to see Anima State again because I enjoyed the way the messages were conveyed, the tongue-in-cheek retro incidental music (surely some of that score music must be ironic), the momentary hallucinogenic interludes (thankfully not too many) and the clips from Lollywood's yesteryear (including everyone's favourite feudalfest Maula Jatt). There were elements that were Lynchian, perhaps a bit cruder but so what, this was made on a shoestring and no-one is expecting a Mulholland Drive set in Islamabad. The protagonist cum antagonist (which is it? Who can know?) reminded me of Karloff's monster (circa the early James Whale films) and even David Bowie as the displaced alien in the Man Who Fell To Earth in its early scenes. The cinema hall screening room scene had shades of the radio station in Vanishing Point- alongside the narrator/radio voice-over inter-cut in various other parts of the film. The 'masturbation to cricket match re-runs' is original and clearly anarchic to a sub-continent that reveres the game. Islamabad's hippest coffee bar/restaurant, the Hot Spot, even makes a cameo (I should have known it would). There are enough topical references to drown in: corruption, religious extremism, confused stereotypes of women in Pakistan, India as the big bad neighbour, TV cable channels chasing ratings... the list goes on and on. The message though is never lost: something has gone horribly wrong with this society, but without it ever being preachy or disattached. If you can look beyond the obviously lower budget, then this is a great slice of so-called subversive guerrilla film making-- an outdated phrase but perfectly suited to Hammad Khan's style. It won't appeal to everyone but it will surely find its niche, if somewhat smaller, audience. As with many of these films, it may ultimately sink without trace or over time build up a grass roots following en route to it, just maybe, becoming a bit of a minor cult classic.
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