Diya: A Study Of The Social Life Of Ordinary Subjects

von Mrs Frisby am 22. Oktober 2005

in Film ab!

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Judith MacDougall’s film Diya is set in Northern India and gives us an intimate insight in the social life of an Indian family. This intimacy is conveyed by her sophisticated and sensitive camera approach and her collaboration with the subjects. The leitmotif of the film is a small oil lamp which is used during a Hindu celebration for the goddess Diwali. We follow the development from the lamp’s production to its use during the ceremony.

The film is divided into four parts. Each part is introduced by an inter-title and people’s comments are subtitled. Text and voice-over is rarely and consciously used to prevent imposition.

In the first part the father of the family who is a clay manufacturer is depicted while producing oil lamps. The perspective moves from a long sequence of close-ups to long shots where the whole person is depicted. Therefore, the lamp as the leitmotif is introduced as a central element in the family’s life.

In her film Judith MacDougall follows the notion of participatory cinema. The people are aware that they are filmed and interact with the camera by commenting on actions or communicating directly towards the camera. When the father is shown during his work, another person mentions “That is the magic of being in a film” referring to the father working particularly hard to make a good impression. Through the participation and awareness of the people, the process of filming is less an imposition rather than their free will to reveal themselves.

MacDougall manages to humanise the camera for the audience in order to identify not only with the filmmaker as an observer, but also with the individuals shown in the film. This supports cross-cultural understanding and communication between the audience and the subjects of the film. There are long sequences filmed without any intervention of the camera. Interruptions during a scene are also included in the footage. This emphasises the prevention of artificiality and the relaxation with which Judith MacDougall has made the film.

The second part is about the journey of the lamp from the yard to a bazaar. The public life is presented and exemplified, e. g. by viewing two women bargaining about the price of oil lamps. In this case MacDougall has chosen to film in long shots to depict public life and make reference to Indian society in general. The film contains a lot of different camera angles which create a great variety of film-compositions.

The next part is about the Hindu celebration. The lamp moves back into the inside of a familiy’s house. This circular movement from family’s life to the bazaar and back to another family reminds on Rouch’s notion of circularity and closure. The filming in the interior of the house reinforces the intimate atmosphere between the camera and the people because the house represents privacy and familiarity.

The last scene is set where the film has started off. The adults and children are depicted while experimenting with the camera. They try out different postures and are enjoying being filmed.

The final voice-over is a summary of the future perspective of the people. MacDougall mentions that they have a hard life and the parents want their children to get a better education in order to get a better job rather than being a clay manufacturer. The end of the film is a pessimistic outlook because it is mentioned that the family has been manufacturers for 7 generations. There seems to be little opportunity that this is going to change.

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