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JUSTE LA FIN DU MONDE – IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD




The Guardian states that ‘Jean-Luc Lagarce was 38 when he died of AIDS, four years older than Louis, the protagonist of his play – It’s Only the End of the World. Though he never comes right out and names the disease, Louis is going home to tell his family that he is dying. What he doesn’t realize is that they don’t want to hear it, or maybe they already know.’


Every time I find myself a little adrift, I find an anchor in this film. For the world it may be cruel, melancholic, quarrelsome, pressured, or even barmy. Similarly, the critics must have found umpteen flaws, as for me, I quite care less for both, because the world is fickle, and reviewers, well, the less said the better it is; their summation rarely stems from knowledge, purely out of an obligation to finish their job. In hindsight, they might have written it off simply because they might not have grasped the depth of the play, or the adaptation to the screen. Plainly put the individuals here aren’t glorified and etched to be cotton candy; they are as factual as they can get, and those of us who possess the power of observation know that no family is perfect. We may not understand each other, but we love each other, and that is the beauty of familial bonds.


Why can’t we take a film for what it is – the vision of the man who realises it. Why do we have to make nonsensical comparisons with the same filmmaker’s earlier films, and effort to tailor everything into a previous mould? Or even start drawing parallels with films in the same genre made by others. While some below par commentators may consider this technique cool, it is nothing less than absurd. Give me a modern version of a Berger or Kael, and I would consider their word of some consequence. Not these brand-wrapped, vodka-holding scroungers who oscillate their opinions with the shifting drift of the most expensive perfumes in the wind. Sadly, we are indeed, currently rather starved of that one human being who can murderously shred every nerve of a film to reveal its basest strength and weaknesses.


“I prefer the madness of passion to the wisdom of indifference,” said French poet Anatole France, and this is a brilliant and hallucinatory evocation of family dysfunction presented in the most stylised and superb manner by the close-ups of André Turpin’s cinematography that pays quite the ode to the words of the poet France.


I am thus habituated to the magic of Gaspard Ulliel that if I do not watch this, and, A Very Long Engagement, I feel that both my limbs are missing. Marion Cotillard is as fascinatingly fabulous as she can be, the ideal embodiment of grace and flair. For me, this film is a celebration in the same way as Rilke said death is our friend, precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.


A lot has been spoken about how the motion picture is suffocating. About how the characters essayed by Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux yak incessantly, and so very incessantly that the man, a successful and famous playwright, who has been away from the house for the last twelve years, is unable to convey to them that he has come to tell them that he is dying. His intention to visit them has been termed as selfish as well, and none of what is being written about it is as blemished as it is being made to appear. Just look around you, we talk incessantly to the very people we meet regularly, so when he comes visiting after those many years, they are excited as much as they are miserable, they want to catch up in their own respects on the time that has been lost betwixt them. They inundate him with their version of what they think of him, and keep making subtle pleas in wanting him to reassure them that he won’t disappear this time like he did the last, and that they shouldn’t have to know about him from the news dailies when he is their own flesh and blood, when what they need from him is a little approval and recognition, even though he is the younger one. Yes, there is theatre, and yes, the characters here seem to fly off the handle with rage, and yes, there is a tint of ridiculousness, but even in that anxiety there is ample art.


When I am writing the most imperative parts of my new book, I play this film in the background. I find the reverberation in it help aid me work on my work with such lucidity that I have no one but the director, who is also the writer and editor, to thank for the reactions the work evokes in me. I might have possibly watched it close to fifteen times by now, and I can watch it a million times more, and never tire of it really, and, mind you, all this I say, when I do not know a word of French. Language is like that – its registers generate in one the ability to understand what needs to be understood without having to know the syntax of the language, and for that reason, I adore the melody the dialogues produce. Their cadence, upheaval and rhythmic rolling, so to say, which reach me where not many have been able to reach me before.


Whether it is the ephemeral quality of unexpected death in Remember Me (2010), choosing between one’s loyalty to one’s country or one’s suitor in Suite Française (2015), the expression of profound grief in my buddy Mohit’s Aashiqui 2 (2013), the repentance in my friend Anubhav’s Tum Bin 2 (2016), the throttling of desire and genius in my brother Asim’s Ho Mann Jahaan (2015), the driving force behind a family in The Hundred Foot Journey (2014) to honour their lost family member in the iconic cinematic expedition written on the novel of the same name by my dear friend Richard C Morais, or the minxy and manipulative face of death in the newest offering My Cousin Rachel (2017), death does that to us, does it not? In more ways than one, it frees us from the restraints of life. And death does not necessarily have to be of the flesh. It could be the death of words, of thoughts, of feelings, of relationships. In my case, they take birth in my insanities and die almost immediately on my page, and I am more than glad that Xavier’s film keeps me company in such an excursion.


Rilke in this poem below somehow sums up everything that Xavier’s film says on the screen so marvellously well in his words.

“My life is not this steeply sloping hour,
in which you see me hurrying.
Much stands behind me; I stand before it like a tree;
I am only one of my many mouths,
and at that, the one that will be still the soonest.

I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death’s note wants to climb over—
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.”

Rainer Maria Rilke





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