Review: ‘Darshan (Embracing)’

Talk about a hands-on vocation: "Darshan (Embracing)" follows India's world-renowned Amma -- a short, chubby woman in her early 50s with a radiant smile -- who, over three decades, has hugged more than 23 million people. Amma imparts comfort, serenity and unconditional love via touch, one person at a time, for 21 hours straight.

Talk about a hands-on vocation: “Darshan (Embracing)” follows India’s world-renowned Amma — a short, chubby woman in her early 50s with a radiant smile — who, over three decades, has hugged more than 23 million people. Amma imparts comfort, serenity and unconditional love via touch, one person at a time, for 21 hours straight. But, far from inundating viewers with a litany of facts, Jan Kounen has his lilting camera drift through the colorful streets of India, recording Amma from a you-are-there vantage. Docu’s pace will be a little too meditative for many, but the rigorous, sinewy lensing will have hypnotic power on those so inclined.

Along with cheery, quasi-profound pronouncements by Amma herself, interview testimony from Amma’s disciples includes English and French-speaking Westerners, some of whom were skeptical originally but then were won over.

Footage shows Amma lick the pus from a leper’s sores — which is very effective shorthand for her saintly credentials. All possible allegations of quackdom appear to evaporate when Amma is shown accepting the Gandhi-King Prize for her work on behalf of peace and non-violence. The award’s previous recipients include Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela.

In 1979, Amma had a handful of followers and a temple in southern India that held 10 people. Today she is the irreplaceable fulcrum of a massive charitable enterprise that builds houses for the homeless, feeds the hungry, runs a hospital and an orphanage and does constant good works throughout India.

When Amma hugs people, the process resembles an incredibly affectionate book signing featuring a very popular author, whose readers feel free to kvetch to her about work, personal relationships and their health. With helpers keeping the crowds moving, long lines of humans are effectively “signed” by an attentive and apparently tireless Amma.

With this classily lensed venture, Kounennow has two docus under his belt about the mysterious reaches of alternative spiritual practices. “Other Worlds” (2004) documents the director’s own extensive use of ritual hallucinogens under the guidance of a shaman.

Amma’s gifts can’t be explained but docu proves that 23 million people can’t be wrong.

Darshan (Embracing)

France-Germany-Japan

Production

An Ocean Films release (in France) of an Ocean Films presentation of a Productions de la Roche, Tawak Pictures, Arte France Cinema, Roissy Films (France)/Pegasos Film (Germany)/Artist Film (Japan) co-production. (International sales: Roissy Films, Paris.) Produced by Manuel de la Roche. Co-producers, Naoki Kai, Soo-Jun Bae. Directed by Jan Kounen. Screenplay, Manuel de la Roche, Kounen.

Crew

Camera (color), Sebastien Pentecouteau; editor, Anny Danche; music, Jean-Jacques Hertz, Francois Roy; sound (Dolby), Laurent Lafran, Jean-Jacques Hertz, Anne Le Campion; production logistics in India, On the Road Production; assistant directors, Laurence Guerault, Sandrine Ray; second unit director, Anne Paris; second unit camera, Vineet Jarotra. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (non-competing), May 18, 2005. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Ramakrishnananda Puri, Amritaswarupananda Puri, Krishnamrita Prana, Amritagitananda Puri, Elisa Rimbaud, Brahmachari Shubamrita Chaitanya. (Malayalam, French, English dialogue)
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading