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BRICK LANE (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 25, 2008 by  



A beautiful and moving  film about self-discovery, carrying on or moving away from cultural traditions when moving to a new country and more.  A delightful performance from Tannishtha Chatterjee, Salish Koushik and Christopher Simpson.

TITLE: BRICK LANE

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2007

DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: NTSC, Region 1, 2:35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen), French Subtitles, English 5.1 (Dolby Digital)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: January 13, 2009

Directed by Sarah Gayron

Based on a novel by Monica Ali

Screenplay by Abi Morgan, Laura Jones

Produced by Alison Owen, Christopher Collins

Director of Photography: Robbie Ryan

Music by Jocelyn Pook

Executive Producers: Paula Jalfon, Duncan Reid, Paul Trijbits, Tessa Ross

Starring:

Tannishtha Chatterjee as Nazneed Ahmed

Satish Kaushik as Chanu Ahmed

Christopher Simpson as Karim

Naeema Begum as Rukashana “Shahna” Ahmed

Lana Rahman as Bibi Ahmed

Lalita Ahmed as Mrs. Islam

Harvey Virdi as Razi

Zafreen as Hasina

A young Bangladeshi woman, Nazneem, arrives in 1980s London, leaving behind her beloved sister and home, for an arranged marriage and a new life. Trapped within the four walls of her flat, and in a loveless marriage with the middle aged Chanu, she fears her soul is quietly dying. Her sister Hasina, meanwhile, continues to live a carefree life back in Bangladesh, stumbling from one adventure to the next. Nazneen struggles to accept her lifestyle, and keeps her head down in spite of life’s blows, but she soon discovers that life cannot be avoided – and is forced to confront it the day that the hotheaded young Karim comes knocking at her door.

A moving film that will touch your heart.

“BRICK LANE” is a film based on the best selling novel by Monica Ali about arrange marriages, moving away from one’s country and living a new life in another country and for many, living a life based on survival and marriage where there might not be strong love but also a film about finding one’s self.

The term “Brick Lane” is actually a long street in East end of London and where many Bangladesh community reside.

The story centers around a Bangladeshi woman named Nazneen.  Nazneen and her sister are very close but due to a tragedy of her mother committing suicide, life has changed in her family and Nazneen, at a young age, is quickly arranged to get married with a man 25 years older than her.

Fast forward twenty years later in London and Nazneen now with two daughters and her husband (Satish Kaushik) live in an apartment in Brick Lane and her husband who is unemployed is always gone during the day and tries to find ways to make money for the family.

Nazneen appears to live her life with no soul.  Her husband doesn’t treat her with love or an equal, just a wife who does what he says and raises the family.  But for Nazneen, the only thing that really keeps her going in life is her two daughters and the letters that she had received from her sister a long time ago.

Her sister appears to have a good life and didn’t get in an arranged marriage and did her own thing.  And for Nazneen, each time she writes to her, there is not much to write.  She stays home, takes care of the kids and rarely ventures out on her own but only during the day.  She has lived a sheltered life and a woman that has no zest in her life, her soul is quietly dying.

But things change for her when she meets her new neighbor who has a sewing machine.  Nazneen figures she can raise some money for the family but when a young man named Karim comes to her apartment to have blue jeans mended, the two start to develop an attraction that leads to Nazneen having an affair, which literally changes both of them.

Nazneen seems to be happy, her soul renewed but how long can she keep her secret from her husband and when 9/11 changes the world, it also changes life in London, especially for the Muslims.  Nazneen’s life and the people close to her will never be the same again.

Suffice to say, as one would see this film as a positive step for women who come from cultures which they are not treated as equals or lack their independence, the film and also the novel is also very controversial among the Bangladesh people who even campaigned and protested the filming of “BRICK LANE” in their community because they felt that the film was demeaning towards the Bangladesh people.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

The DVD is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and cinematography had an earthy feel with yellow, brown and redish lights utilized at times.  Very beautiful cinematography.  The majority of the footage is inside Nazneems apartment but near the final quarter of the film do we see more of London.

As for audio, the film is featured in English 5.1 (Dolby Digital) and the majority of the film is dialogue.  But when the theme song that plays in the beginning and the end come on, it really comes out in the speakers.  A very beautiful theme song!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“BRICK LANE” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Director Sarah Gavron and Actress Tannishtha Chatterjee – The special feature was quite interesting to listen to.  Sarah Gavron was very good in discussing the challenges of filmmaking and what they had to accomplish in their short time filming.  She and Tannishtha discuss the protests as well and most of all, how winter scenes had to be filmed in 90 degree, hot and humid weather.  Overall, really good commentary from both women and a really in-depth commentary for film students  who want to learn from Gavron who actually graduated from film school, did a short film and was discovered which led to “BRICK LANE” being her first feature film.  Also, Gavron worrying how Monica Ali would think about the film and also as a foreigner looking outside into the culture of the Bangladeshi and also how like Ang Lee was a foreigner but create exceptional films in another country, it was an inspiration for her for a film like this. Very good commentary and  featured with English subtitles.
  • Exploring Brick Lane – This segment features the behind-the-scenes making of.  This includes interviews with the director, producers and cast.
  • Interview with Sarah Gavron – Gavron talks about her past and also filming “BRICK LANE”
  • Interview with Tannishtha Chatterjee and Christopher Simpson – Both talk about how they were cast, their chemistry of working together and more.
  • Interview with Satish Kaushik – Satish talks about his role and how he was selected for the film.
  • Scene Specific Commentaries – Commentaries on certain scenes from the film
  • Deleted Scenes – A lower res feature of certain scenes in the film that were cut and actually agree with removal of that footage.

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Overall, I enjoyed “BRICK LANE” but at the same time, I can understand why Bangladeshi people dislike the film.   In modern times, many countries especially in America, are used to seeing women in power and when we here about marriage, we tend to hear about people falling in love and rarely are people accustomed to arranged marriages.

In the commentary, both Gavron and Chatterjee had opportunities to learn from women who are in similar situations as Nazneem and I would imagine that there would be some who just live their lives for the family like Nazneem.  And in today’s world, I can understand why people not familiar with arranged marriages from other cultures may disagree with it.

But in South Asia and also other parts of Asia, arranged marriages still happen.  It’s part of the culture.  Even within my family, my grandparents had told me stories about having to go back to their home country and find a good wife there and I was not going to stand for an arranged marriage.

How I viewed “BRICK LANE” was almost something similar to my upbringing in the fact that there is traditional culture where rules apply and there are those who live in a country where those traditional and cultural rules are not necessarily all gone but it’s not the same.  Nazneem is a woman who knows Bangladeshi customs but at the same time, her soul is like a candle with its light slowly getting smaller.  The only thing that keeps her going is the fact that she wants to be their for her children unlike her mother who gave them a chance at life but at the cost of her’s.

But she’s not happy with her husband, she’s doesn’t seem attracted to him at all.  But for the sake of family, she does her best.  And then of course, life changes for her when she meets Kalim.    Kalim is a young man who is becoming a man and wants to marry Nazneem and both change each others lives.

How one’s upbringing (especially in their culture) can lead them to see this movie as quite destructive or some may see it as moving and beautiful, the film and its novel will continue to have its critics and its supporters.

In the end, “BRICK LANE” is about a woman finding her way and becoming independent.  A husband who wants the best for his family but unable to make things happen in London and wants to be back in Bangladesh and a young man, coming of age and because of the treatment towards Muslims after 9/11, leads him to activism.

All three performers, Chatterjee, Koushik and Simpson did an exceptional job for their roles on this film. Balanced with beautiful cinematography and an enchanting theme song, overall, I found “BRICK LANE” to be a quite moving.  Definitely worth checking out!

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