Its an age-old question, but given current events, its come up in conversation lately: How can a warrior do his or her job killing for the government and then live normally afterward, with family, with children, after witnessing the horrors of battle and playing a role in the destruction of other families?
Such is the metaphysical struggle of a soldier, a treacherous path depicted by director Asif Kapadia in his breakout feature The Warrior, a mysterious, beautiful and spiritual journey thats short on dialogue and long on visual symbolism. A sort of mix between Sergio Leones spaghetti Westerns and Akira Kurosawas cinematically breathtaking epics, this 2001 Hindi film follows a fallen warrior from Indias dusty Rajasthan desert to the snow-capped Himalayas.
Filmed during 11 months spent mostly in the scorching desert heat, it features 600 horses, camels, scorpions, wild dogs and other feral extras in scenes of feudal, rural Indian life. For its beauty and scope, cinematographer Roman Osin won the prize for best cinematography at San Sebastian 2001, and the film won Best British Film at the 2004 British Academy Awards.
A simple story based on a Japanese folk tale, the plot follows the egoistic warrior who must lose the very thing he loves in order to find a path to redemption. And so it is that Lafcadia lives in the middle of the desert with his adolescent son, whom he leaves at home when riding with the other warriors in service of the evil local warlord. Lafcadias job is to behead villagers who dont cough up sufficient taxes, despite claims of drought, and to ride through the desert burning, raping, killing and ransacking villages that step out of line.
During one such violent pillage, Lafcadia runs into a young girl who reminds him of his son. Thats where it all stops and starts. The warrior renounces violence and hurries to escape with his son to the mountains for a life of peace. Along his journey he meets with a young thief whose weapon is chili powder, and a blind woman who senses the blood on Lafcadias hands, rejecting his offer of assistance.
The film has an element of mystery, as actions take place contemplatively and often silently, adding an element of suspense. Dialogue and explanation are light; often the expressions on peoples faces are meant to tell the story to heartbreaking effect. Actor Irfan Khan does a splendid job in the films title role; lingering shots of his eyes and face make up a significant element of the film.
Interestingly, though titled The Warrior, there are no fight scenes in this film. There are moments when people die by the knife, but the scenes are realistic in that death happens without a dramatic hullabaloo: just a knife across the throat, quiet, simple.
Because there is so little dialogue and explanation, audiences may be left with questions. But in the end, the answers are irrelevant in the epics spiritual quest for love, forgiveness, truth and peace. With time, man realizes all he wants is love. Thats all the audience wants, as well.
Showing at the Birmingham 8 (211 S. Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-644-3456).
Lisa M. Collins writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].