- Directed by Marco Marra -
In Hinduism, a Devadasi is a female ‘dancer’ dedicated to serving a deity within a temple for the rest of her life. Starting with the colonial rule by the British Empire of the Indian subcontinent, this tradition has gradually undergone a process of being outlawed for its alleged links to prostitution. It is most likely with this thought it mind that writer-director Marco Marra titled his film, which uses the Hindu term as a suggestive metaphor.
The 10-minute short’s plot, set in a not-so-well-off neighbourhood somewhere in Italy, involves a man repeatedly paying an access fee to a basement, where a young girl lies waiting to undertake sexual favours on all who descend the steps that lead into her room of imprisonment. The man’s first visit is presumably made with the objective of getting laid in mind. However, the two share a special connection, which intensifies with every visit, slowly but steadily leading the man to start considering his options.
‘Devadasi’ exhibits a number of good ideas and well-implemented elements. For instance, the black and white filter which is initially applied gradually diminishes, leaving way for colour, as their bond grows brighter and brighter. The connection between the two is not one based on words, but on gestures, and the way they respond to each other’s touches. This is a great method of providing an artistic exposition style while steering clear of what would have inevitably been cheesy dialogues between the two.
Unfortunately, other elements fail to rise to the same level as the aforementioned ones. The score is okay, but could have been utilized in a similar fashion to the colorization. Their initial interaction is accompanied by complete silence, while the second rendezvous introduces a shy yet slightly optimistically-sounding music. Ulterior visits could have been punctuated by a constantly amplifying crescendo, and yet the last key encounter is characterized by silence once again. The shaky camera and slow-motion effects fail to add significant value, but the main problem is not one of stylistic nature, but rather content. ‘Devadasi’ is simple and predictable, its whole plot resting on what is a very generic development framework, with little of its own unique identity.
Overall, Marco Marra’s production is by no means a bad film. It features a lot of good ideas which are rather well implemented, and its simplicity is at most times an asset rather than a liability. However, it does not stray far from the norm, and this is why it is considerably less remarkable than it could have otherwise been.