Written & Directed by: Gnanadas Kasinathar STARRING: Jeyaranjinee Gnanadas, Aloysius Thevanayagam, Ravichandran Kethuja, Veerawagu Katheesan, Gnaneswaran Paskaran, Navaneethan Linoshanan
Trance is a captivating and beautifully executed short film by Writer / Director Gnanadas Kasinathar. It is set in Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of the civil war, and focuses on Kokila, a Hindu mother in her fifties, who is struggling with mental health issues following the disappearance of her son. Her daughter and husband, unable to cope with her erratic behaviour, take her to a Shaman, who tells her she will receive good news. Following this, two men claiming to be CID agents visit the family – they claim that they are in contact with Kokila’s son, but the family begin to suspect the truth may be otherwise.
Focusing as it does on the mental health of the protagonist, the film gives a touching insight into the devastating emotional impact of such wars for ordinary families. It is a refreshing and unusual angle to take, rather than focusing on soldiers or fighters, and creates an emotive story which humanises the effects of war. The characters feel real and complex – as the daughter struggles with the impact on her relationship and the husband, gentle but helpless, detaches himself tries to focus on his work. The performances are beautiful – the lead actress veering from fraught and desperate to hopeful but fragile without ever veering into melodrama – and the honest depictions of what feel very much like real people make the story all the more heartbreaking.
The cinematography by Siva Santhakumar is gorgeous and reflects the story wonderfully. The opening scene shows Kokila, disturbed and wakeful, surrounded by darkness – perhaps reflecting her dark and clouded mental state – as she searches for a book of poems written by her son. When the CID agents visit for the second time, they are shown dominant in the foreground of the frame, with the family small, trapped between them – suggesting that they are dominating the situation and perhaps should not be trusted. The colours are rich, the landscape epic and sweeping, with other community members often present in the background of scenes. This puts what might have felt like a domestic drama into a wider context and implies the troubles endured by these characters are felt by whole communities and have been similarly felt by families across the country.
Kainathar has told this story with poignancy, honesty and heart. Whilst at 20 minutes it is at the slightly longer end of most short film lengths, it never drags. Trance is a beautiful piece of work which deserves success on the film festival circuit and beyond.