Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Movie Review: Metse (The Life), 2007

Metse (The Life) is not likely to win any awards, except perhaps in an amateur film contest. It tells the story of a Tibetan refugee family growing up in south India, a simple film about simple life and the everyday problems of work and raising families.

For a film produced by and featuring Tibetans, it is surprisingly free of Tibetan issues and concerns. Grandmother mentions after moving to the big city how strange it is not to have any stupas in the neighborhood around which to make the daily kora, or circumabulation. The son and his future wife come together because they are the only two Tibetans at their college. When the children play hide-and-seek with their toy guns, they play Chinese and Tibetans. Otherwise there is little in the film about about being Tibetan or refugees. There is no politics, no religion, no mention of the Dalai Lama, no depiction of discrimination or the legal hassles of being a refugee. Metse could be about almost any family in the developing world.

By international standards, the film's production values are low. A microphone pokes into the corner of a frame, edits jump, a younger version of the father appears late in the film, the same theme is played repeatedly between scenes, music is performed on an anemic synthesizer, ambient sound is noticeably absent in a few scenes, the actors are stiff, the director replaces the epilogue with a text summary, and the script is sprinkled with cliches about the sacrifice of parents for children and the value of family.

Despite its faults, though, Metse manages, perhaps through naive earnestness, to maintain a bit of charm. I almost gave up about a third of the way through, but by the halfway mark found myself wanting to find out what happens to the characters. Nothing really does, which adds a touch, I suppose, of verisimilitude to a rather run-of-the-mill family drama.



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