Two of the most interesting movies that I have seen till now at the ongoing fifth edition of the Beijing International Film Festival are from Britain, The Falling, and the other from Mexico, The Beginning of Time.Acclaimed documentary maker Carol Morley's The Falling is set in a British school during the 1960s, where the girls are stifled by the largely Victorian mores. The world may be breaking into a climate of free sex, driven by the pill and Flower Children, but 16-year-old Abigail (Florence Pugh) finds herself reprimanded by her teacher (Greta Scacchi) for wearing a skirt that is two inches shorter than what is considered appropriate. And when the girl recites Wordsworth's Ode with unseemly passion, the teacher is not amused, Rather, she is scandalised.
If this was not enough, Abigail finds herself pregnant after a brief fling with her best friend, Lydia's (Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams) brother. Things come to a head when a horrible tragedy strikes the school. Girls begin to faint in scenes which resemble Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides. Is the fainting episode a disease or is it brought about by something supernatural. Morley leaves this question unanswered, and wisely so. Ably performed, The Falling is a work that can grip Indian audiences as well.Bernardo Arellano's The Beginning of Time is a bitter sweet tale of an aged couple which finds itself penniless after the government decides to stop their pension. Forced to sell food on the street in order to eke out a precarious living, the husband and wife find their life suddenly changing when their son and grandson appear.
Essaying the couple, Antonio Perez Carbajal and Bertha Olivia Ramirez, portray the anguish and pain of the elderly who are deserted by their children. Narrated with wonderful leisure, The Beginning of Time centres on a pressing problem that the old and infirm face not just in the West, but also in India. Long after the movie's credits have rolled by, the faces of the couple -- forlornly helpless -- haunted me.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Beijing International Film Festival.)