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The Warrior (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Writer-director Asif Kapadia shows an extremely hard life in this 2003 film of feudal India. Lafcadia (Irfin Khan) sets out on a journey of redemption that takes him from the deserts of India to the Himalayan Mountains. He is aided immeasurably by cinematographer Roman Osin and the original music of Dario Marianelli, as the film is almost devoid of dialogue. Kapadia tells the story visually, but the lack of dialogue leaves no information wanting.

Based on a Japanese legend of a young man training to be a samurai who is shown a severed head and asked if it is his father, Lafcadia is a Rajput -- who lives in the deserts and forts of Rajasthan, in the Northwest of India. He works for a brutal warlord (Anupam Shyam) who regularly sends Lafcadia to carry out such savage punishments as beheadings and pillaging raids of entire villages. His job is to do as bidden without question.

But during one horrible job of massacring a village, he has a renaissance and decides to stop killing. This is not acceptable to the warlord (“nobody leaves my service”), so he sends Lafcadia’s assistant, Biswas (Aino Annuddin), to hunt down Lafcadia and bring back his head. Lafcadia faces many ordeals, but remains steadfast in holding to his ideals. This is a mystical story of one man against a system, reminiscent of Sergio Leoni’s spaghetti westerns and the “man with no name.” Not unlike Leoni’s Clint Eastwood, Khan doesn’t need dialogue to make the film work. Unlike Clint’s always angry, monosyllabic character in Leoni’s films, Lafcadia is going through tremendous emotional trauma throughout the film. Khan lets us see Lafcadia’s soul through his eyes. This isn’t just a warrior, it’s a real man.

Although Kapadia chose Khan, one of India’s most respected actors, for the lead, many of the parts are filled by simple villagers. One of the key parts, a blind lady Lafcadia meets on his journey, was played by a woman who ran a telephone booth in Delhi, Damayanti Marfatia, a woman in her 60s who was willing to travel to the deserts and the mountains to be in the film. Biswas, the warrior trying to track down Lafcadia, was played by the film’s stuntman, Aino Annuddin, because no Indian actor was capable for the physical part of the role.

Kapadia used a static camera but didn’t give his actors marks, letting them instead move in accordance with their instincts. Kapadia explains his reasoning, “…the actors simply have to be.  And that is how the audiences comes to truly believe in them, in these characters, are real human beings even when magical events surround them.”  Despite the lack of dialogue and the 83 minute running time, the cinematography and the music and the story and the acting are, well, magical. (In Hindi with subtitles)

June 21, 2005