My movie buddy and I stopped for dinner after seeing a matinee showing of “Trishna.” She pointed out a young couple at the buffet line and said, “There’s a United States example of the same thing!” The young man was dressed in casual summer clothes and comfortable shoes, while his date was in a tight, skimpy dress that showed off her even tan. Her shoes were excruciating five-inch spikes. Were they a happy couple sharing equally, or was she going to, later that evening, get sick of their inequality, take off one of those spikes, and smash it heel first through his temple?
The movie is supposed to be a modern adaptation, set in India, of the Thomas Hardy classic, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles.” Like the earlier version with Natasha Kinski, it deals with class differences and women’s oppression poured into a stereotypical romantic story mold. In both movies, it’s really hard to figure out exactly what Tess/Trishna (Frieda Pinto) is thinking in all the different situations. It’s not bad acting or bad directing; it’s a device. Since we don’t know exactly what she is thinking or feeling, we’re all the more free to make up our own version, and project whatever we think or feel into her changing situations.
In his classic work, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,” Frederick Engels makes it very clear that women’s oppression begins with divisions of class. Trishna is a poor country girl trying to help her family survive before she accidentally meets the dashing young businessman who takes her heart and body before grabbing for her soul as well. Class differences, Jay assures her at first, don’t matter to young lovers. And they don’t, at least not temporarily.
It’s not a happy movie. It’s a serious dissertation on class and women’s oppression. Wonderfully, beautifully done!
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Rated R, 108 min.
Photo: Still from Trishna.