Before My Eyes (1989)

  |  Documentary, Short

Before My Eyes (1989) Poster

A documentary which captures scenic views and sounds in the valley of Kashmir.


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25 August 2010 | devduttfilmscreening
| My favourite Mani Kaul film
This is the Kaul film that left the strongest impression on me. I have been lucky to engage with it 3 times on 35mm.

Mani Kaul's films create a sensory construct around their use of a selection of sounds to create a specific sensorial effect and images to create volume instead of (as in Hollywood) their denotative element of space. His films usually attempt to create an aesthetic where language is used beyond its denotative aspect, into its suggestive and rhythmic tonalities based on Anandvardhan's 4th century text Dhwanyaloka about haiku like poetry forms and the aesthetic of suggestion they create known as 'Dhwani' which means 'suggestive sound.'

Kaul constructs his trademark suggestive sensory bags in possibly his most explicit way. Juxtaposing images of nature with shots of Dal lake taken through a shikara and landscape shots taken with a helicopter or hot air balloon, the centerpiece of the film is an alaap in Raga Shree in the austere form of North Indian music, dhrupad.

Kaul comments on the 'tourist film' nature of his project by having an American musician, Nancy Lesh, play a Western classical instrument, the cello in the austere dhrupad form in the Dagarbani style.

Kaul suggests the becoming through the inflation of a hot air balloon, its sound, the process of colonization as suggested by shots through the front of the Shikara representing the direction of colonization and a Bresson like sequence of horses with what seem to be their warrior- masters. The sensory collapse is denoted through a remarkable shot of the hot air balloon deflating which is where the Pakhwaj or Indian drum joins in. The text on the air balloon plays with a suggestive pun on the word 'Indra Dhanush' which means its textual meaning: (Lord) Indra's bow as well as its banal meaning:rainbow.

The film has a remarkable soundtrack with sounds of birds interspersed together with sounds of water, the hot air balloon and other natural sounds.

The film ends with what is my most memorable film experience: a gradual tilt up from a glacier to show the shadow of the helicopter from which the film is being shot. The delayed machinated sound of the helicopter fades into the credits.

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Plot Summary


Documentary | Short




Country of Origin


Filming Locations

Kashmir, India

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