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Film Reviews Anatomy of Violence is strange, impressionistic and often hard to watch

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Anatomy of Violence
Directed by
Deepa Mehta
Starring
Vansh Bhardwaj, Tia Bhatia, Janki Bisht
Genre
Documentary
Classification
18A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2016

Could you feel empathy for a rapist? When six men sexually brutalized a young woman on a Delhi bus in 2012, the world wrote them off as monsters. Filmmaker Deepa Mehta (Midnight's Children), who grew up in Delhi before moving to Toronto in 1973, saw that as too simplistic, too easy on the culture of patriarchy and grinding poverty that produced them. So she convened a series of improvisatory acting workshops to explore their backgrounds. But rather than use the work as source material for a later film, as she'd intended, Mehta recorded the proceedings on a hand-held video camera and then simply cut together what unfolded: a sui generis docudrama that is only thinly rooted in actual facts. So, here is one attacker (an adult actor playing a child) being sexually abused by his uncle; here is another, raised by his parents to believe he is untouchable, trying to abuse his sister as she sleeps; here is a third performing unspeakable, imaginatively unhygienic acts in the kitchen. With no artificial lighting and no music, the microbudgeted film is a radical departure from Mehta's previous body of work and its studied, resplendent aesthetic. It is strange, impressionistic, artless and frequently tough to watch. And it may haunt you for weeks.

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