Though it may be hard to believe Earth is in fact based on an autobiographical novel. Set in India during the late forties just as British rule was coming to an end and partition coming into effect, it presents with a single extended family through whom we witness these turbulent events. Though the family members themselves are all Parsee – and therefore neutral in their outlook – the servants are made up of a melting pot of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, all of whom come to encompass the various debates, ideas, experiences and activities of those who lived during this time.
Incredibly contrived then in its blatant microcosm, but also glossily so. The film operates on a build ’em up and knock ’em down approach resulting in a cutesy first half giving way to the harsher realities of the second half. Thus happiness turns to tears, romances go sour, we guess at who will be killed off before the end and the whole thing becomes fairly predictable; not once are we in any doubt as to where the next scene will be taking us.
Indeed, director Deepa Mehta has also placed the family dramas within the much bigger picture meaning that the personal events inevitably rub shoulders with a broader historical canvas. Once again it’s an incredibly contrived approach especially as it sets out Earth’s intentions. There’s no of the grittiness or the Dovzhenko associations the title would suggest, merely aspirations to the Spielberg/Attenborough mode of epic filmmaking: glossy, sentimental and, despite the onscreen events, remarkably bland.
Certainly, there’s none of the surprise of Mehta’s previous film, the lesbian drama Fire. Whilst Earth is supposedly breaking taboos in much the same way (the two films begin a trilogy to be concluded by Water which Mehta has recently completed) it is instead far too safe a prospect to have much luck. Rather the need to secure a wide audience has left any forcefulness behind. In fact, it even borrows the modern day coda from Schindler’s List just to make sure that we fully realise the intent behind the picture. As such it’s the kind of film which will no doubt satisfy a middle brow audience with little or no interest in cinema and may well have earned itself an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film had it not been financed with Canadian money (Mehta’s home country) and offered an equal mixture of the English and Hindi languages. Yet, personally speaking, I’m not convinced in the slightest. And the fact that the film comes from the viewpoint of a disabled young girl (with leg brace à la Forrest Gump) prone to spouting such dialogue as “fear is making people do crazy things these days” only makes it all the more difficult.
Another offering from Pathé’s ‘World Cinema’ range, Earth comes to the UK DVD market in frankly awful condition. The print is clearly suffering from old age and has been transferred without anamorphic enhancement. Admittedly, we do get the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but otherwise the image is soft, clearly faded and has the appearance of videotape; even the subtitles (burnt-in, naturally) flicker along with image. As for the soundtrack, we get the original DD5.1 downgraded to a stereo offering and a muffled one at that. Indeed, both the dialogue and score have nowhere near the clarity we should expect. And, of course, it goes without saying that there are absolutely no extras.
Last updated: 27/04/2018 11:26:18