The national award winner is a tale of a doctor who is taken as a hostage in a family of three women during a nationwide pandemic where he is stuck in a never-ending time loop. The masterful build-up of an unnerving atmosphere, where the true nature of his abductors keeps revealing is done well. The dull, dark interiors and the shabby dresses worn by the women feel tailor-made for the premise of the film is built in. A sense of dread and despair creeps into the walls of the room.
But, the film is sometimes an exposition dump and sometimes follows a cautious meta-commentary about human suffering and perspectives during the covid 19 pandemic. Despite the subtlety in the setup and the minor changes in the camera angles in every key scene, the dialogue feels heavy-handed when the characters try to rationalize their actions. The idea was nice, the women were supposedly a basis for the metamorphosis the apathetic doctor goes through in the film, but despite the technical fluency, the dramatization seems under-cooked. That’s why, we couldn’t feel any sort of emotional attachment with any of them not even for the hapless doctor who is stuck in a nightmarish time loop.
The prevalent horror tropes of dolls, mysterious chants, and a girl reciting rhyme in a freakish monotone all look perfect for the setup, but the repetition of those sequences seems like overkill. It seems like a desperate attempt for the makers to make the running time cross 2hrs mark. The film could have easily been trimmed down to thirty minutes later. Sometimes the characters move and perform like in a stage play which is although not a put downer but it feels awkward when it suddenly shifts gear to a stage play-like tone.
The social commentaries about the migrant crisis, and pandemic misconceptions are addressed in a very on-your-face approach which again doesn’t go with the atmosphere and aesthetics the film is trying to achieve.
What the film successfully does in portraying the monotones, is the isolation of that period where each day feels like the replica of the previous one. The paranoia, despair, hopelessness, and how different an apocalypse feels like in real life compared to the high-octane excitement in movies.
The title of the film is “House of Time”, it justifies the title quite aptly in the end. The house becomes a synecdoche of what’s happening worldwide, stuck in a time loop without any window of hope and better things.
The character transformation the doctor goes throughout the film is where the makers are successful in delivering a heartfelt message to us. The film tells us to be kind in difficult times, to care for each other however difficult it may seem. It tells us the solution for people to get out of those situations is simply humanity, that’s it.
As per the performances go, they never hit the mark except for Tanistha Biswas, and the makeup seems amateurish and casual, None of the characters are explored well which also may be a reason for the performances never being remarkable enough to borrow attention.
The director duo despite being too explicit in the social messaging sometimes has adapted a rarely seen approach in Bengali cinema, which itself is worth applauding.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.