Darshan - The Embrace

"Very Good"

Darshan - The Embrace Review


Ten years ago Jan Kounen (born in the Netherlands but working in France) was celebrated in Europe as a trailblazing cult filmmaker. Audiences thrilled to his short films (Gisele Kerozene and Vibroboy), pictures teeming with bright colors and wacky sped-up visuals. In 1997 he stunned Europe with Dobermann, a furious crime film starring Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci that plays out like a Tom and Jerry cartoon on crack. He returned in 2004 with the surprisingly slow and mystical Blueberry, an adaptation of the popular Moebius western comic strip. Many fans were put off. Most were stunned. Sure Blueberry had incredible cinematography and spectacular (and surreal) CGI effects, but it was somber. It was meandering. And most of all it was a message picture. Blueberry was essentially an advertisement for self exploration via psychedelics and shamanism.

I interviewed Kounen for a small press mag in 1999 and heard nothing that would suggest he would be switching gears. He spoke about his love of animation and his passion for wild visual flare. So what changed? It was during location scouting in Mexico for Blueberry that he discovered shamanism. This intense fascination -- life-altering on a spiritual level -- resulted in the documentary Other Worlds (also 2004) and subsequently infused all of his later work. Discovering "new realities" changed Kounen; he now devotes himself to further exploration of the science of the spirit.

The results of Kounen's explorations can be seen in his latest documentary, Darshan - The Embrace. The film follows the "Divine Indian Mother" Amma (born Mata Amritanandamayi Devi), a 50-year-old woman who is considered a saint in India and seen as a luminary religious figure the world over. Amma is a short, round woman with a genial smile and, obviously, a motherly embrace. In Darshan, Kounen documents firsthand the spectacular spiritual power Amma exudes when in the company of her devotees and the significant influence of her embrace. In fact, she's claimed to have hugged over 25 million people.

The film has no narrative structure; it merely documents Amma's travels through Northern India in celebration of her 50th birthday and her boundless love for the thousands upon thousands of followers that throng her. Most of the film's running time finds Amma seated on an ashram hugging her petitioners and speaking generally about love and the power of a smile. The message, like the film, is simple.

Despite the fact that Darshan has no narrative thread, Kounen doesn't hide his own personal agenda: Amma's powerful hugs are simply another side of the same spiritual coin that Kounen has been chasing after in the far corners of the Earth. In fact, Darshan can feel a bit sycophantic in it's fascination with what Amma embodies, the power she has, rather than the person she is. Kounen doesn't probe into her character, her childhood. Amma's humanitarian work is a tremendous part of her spiritual life but Kounen doesn't linger on the orphanages and homeless -- he is almost too caught up in the ineffable that he sees whirling around this mahatma.

Despite its shortcomings, Darshan remains a beautifully filmed portrait of a woman who embodies a human love that is nothing short of miraculous.

Aka Darshan - L'étreinte.



Darshan - The Embrace

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 30th November 2005

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Tristan Franchon, Manuel De La Roche

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.