Slumdog Millionaire is the talk of the town this cinema award-ceremony season. In recent weeks, there has been a rash of facebook statuses singing its praises. And it is undoubtedly a film worth watching. But it is also a film worth reflecting on.
The first thing to say is this is a violent film: the foreground concentrated violence against individuals, and in particular men inflicting violence on women and children; and the background violence of having to live in extreme poverty. This is a film that does violence to the viewer, watching in a western society that is complicit in that poverty. Despite the uplifting life-affirming feel-good Bollywood end credits scene, to view Slumdog as escapist entertainment is, surely, to miss the point.
The next thing to say is this is a psychedelic film: dizzying heights, loud noise, bright colour, clever camera angles. This is a film that puts the viewer through a simulated parallel to the mental (though not the physical) torturing of the central character, Jamal, at the hands of a Mumbai policeman. It is challenging viewing.
The final introductory thing to say is this is a lovingly-made and beautiful film. This is a film that, for all its violence and disorientation, might just carry seeds of redemptive potential for lovingly-made and beautiful but tragically broken, oppressed and hurting people…