Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Adrift

Jano the fisherman silently returns home to his family. On his way to the house he passes Anada, drawing water from the well, and they exchange a glance. His wife Zuzka lies in bed ill with typhus, and his son reads to her as she sleeps. Jano testily asks his son "Why do you keep reading to her?" he has brought medicine from the city for her, and as he prepares it, we hear shouts from outside the house.

Thus are we indoctrinated into the world of Jan Kadar's "Adrift", in which an outside element disrupts and ultimately destroys Janos' world. The outside element is the girl Anada, and her story is framed between two situations where Jano attempts to save her from drowning.

The film begins with the second instance, as the shouts alert Jano "Anada is in the river!" He rushes to his skiff, and paddles out to try and save her. He shouts for her, but she is nowhere to be found and the scene fades to black. He awakens on the shore, and it is unclear just how he has gotten there, or how much time has passed. He finds his way to a campfire and encounters three mysterious men who question him about Anada. They seem, however to know the answers already. This interrogation, which is interspersed with flashbacks takes us back to the beginning of the story, starting with the first time that Anada is found in the river. She is brought to shore naked and barely alive, and Zuzka decides after nursing her back to health that she would like to have her live with the family.

Jano is unhappy about having this stranger in his house, and suspects her of stealing from him. For all his protestations, however, we realize that his feelings are perhaps confused. At mealtime he talks in a voice-over about her "Picking at her food." ,and then the camera promptly cuts to his wife with food stuck to her face. Then, in the film's centerpiece, he secretly watches her swimming, and in a surreal slow-motion shot, she rises naked from the water and walks right by him with an expressionless sideways glance. From this point on, he is infatuated, and ultimately finds his way to her bed. He grows defensive and becomes frantic when he believes that a handsome local playboy is involved with her.

The film's world has a foggy, dream-like quality that moves it slightly out of the realm of everyday life. Even the time and place are hard to pin down. It is stated that the river in question is the Danube, but the locale looks like it could just as easily be the American south. Striking images pop up time and gain, such as a funeral flotilla on a fog-enshrouded river and a lone steamboat awash in lights.

The three interrogators draw more and more of the story out of Jano, and eventually we end up back where we began, with Jano preparing the medicine for his wife. This time ,however, we see more details. He drops one , then another, then another dose of medicine into the cup. And then Anada disappears into the river for the second and final time.

What do we make of this film? It can be taken on a literal level, where a married man is tempted by a mysterious woman , a la "Sunrise", but I think that "Adrift" has levels beneath that. Is it possible that Anada doesn't even exist except in Jano's mind? The movie dances around this idea but doesn't address it.Then , there are the 3 interrogators. One of them tells us "We come when there is a death", and near the end one of them spells it out for Jano - "Don't you know who we are?" Jano only realizes too late as his world fades way in front of him.

1 comment:

Carol said...

any film by Kadar is worth watching