Labour of Love
Sunday 12th October, 6.15pm – Odeon Covent Garden
Tuesday 14th October, 9pm – Rich Mix
Set in recession-worn Calcutta, Labour of Love is a near dialogueless tale of levelness and loneliness, given intense sensory qualities by first-time director Aditya Vikram Sengupta. It’s an ambitious and committed feature debut that’s not overdirected as such, but rather misguided, with style and story bumping heads throughout.
In an effort to portray the struggles of ordinary residents of West Bengal, Labour of Love focuses on a single couple who work clashing shifts at their respective jobs, seeing little of one another and often spending their time alone. The film is essentially a poem in visual form, behaving as sort of unconventional silent cinema that mutes dialogue between the leads but enhances the ambient noise of the world around them. There are some beautiful shots that reach beyond the eyes and into the other senses – from the image of a squidgy fish out of water, to a hot, glowing sunset. These images reside amid the diegetic sound of the hustle and bustle of the city, the clicks and clunks of work labour, and the scrapes and clinks of domestic chores.
Both leads Basabdutta Chatterjee and Ritwick Chakraborty are disciplined performers, acting patiently with material that requires their mouths to be permanently sewn shut. Despite Labour of Love setting out to depict the laboriousness of the life of this couple, the two never seem as important as the crisp imagery around them, with Sengupta often seemingly distracted by his own cinematography. The aim is surely to convey the hardships of working life, but Sengupta frames this labour and domesticity in such a gorgeous and majestic way that it is impossible to truly experience the sorrow of the characters.
Sengupta has an undeniably sharp eye for delicious imagery, but in a film intending to evoke empathy from the audience for a struggling Indian economy, is this necessarily the best approach? The sting of recession in Calcutta is a story worth telling, and the cinematography is irrefutably fabulous, but the two don’t complement each other enough to create the wholly engaging film that Labour of Love might have been. It’s a swing and a miss, albeit a good looking one.
Labour of Love release date is yet to be announced.
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Watch the trailer for Labour of Love here: