Film: Trishna (15)

Dir: Michael Winterbottom

Stars: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed

Michael Winterbottom is one of the most fascinating British directors working in the movie industry today. He seems to revel in rallying against convention and introducing unusual aspects into his films. The Killer Inside Me, In This World, Code 46 and Wonderland have all pushed at boundaries and toyed with cinematic norms. Trishna sees him take on one of Thomas Hardy’s most famous books: Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Trishna (Pinto) is a poor girl living in contemporary Rajasthan who meets Jay (Ahmed), the British son of a rich Indian property developer, by chance. After her father’s accident plunges the family into poverty, Trishna moves to Jaipur to work in one of hotels owned by Jay’s father. Despite developing feelings towards each other, they find themselves constrained by tradition. As events transport them around India, their relationship changes; leading to a clash between modernisation and cultural tradition.

Trishna, Winterbottom’s third adaptation, adheres roughly to the spirit of the source material, albeit making changes which allow it to seamlessly translate to contemporary India. The conflict between rural and urban India has many parallels with the original text; Hardy was never shy about his hatred of modernisation or in challenging convention. The film journeys though the seven phases in Tess of the d’Urbervilles (The Maiden, The Maiden no More, The Rally, The Consequence, The Woman Pays, The Convert and Fulfilment), introducing a refreshing twist to each one.

India is portrayed with an intoxicating vibrancy, colour and richness. Combined with sumptuous music from Bollywood composer Amit Trivedi, it makes for a heady cocktail which transports the audience to a different culture and climate. It’s easy to get lost in the visuals, and although Trishna has a strong script and performances, Winterbottom’s handling of the themes has a tendency towards the over-subtle. This may leave some slightly perplexed by the final acts.

Whilst Pinto is undeniably beautiful, Trishna should see her ascent into one of the most exciting young actresses around. In a story that relies heavily on what is not said, she produces a nuanced performance brimming with maturity and poise.

The Indian tourist board must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Out now