Hovering between fable and sprawling family saga, “Wail of the Conch” is a handsomely lensed adaptation of Nasrin Jahan’s 1999 novel, but is urgently in need of a substantial re-edit to make the storytelling more logical. Nevertheless, there’s much of interest in director Abu Sayeed’s affectionate depiction of life in the Bangladesh countryside with its village customs and beliefs. Pic has been a popular festival item, but seems a remote draw outside the Indian subcontinent.
The convoluted story, full of sturm und drang, shows an emotionally tortured young man (Zahid Hasan) returning incognito to his village after 27 years. He is taken in, unrecognized, by the uncle (K.S. Firoz) who killed his parents for their land. A local witch with magical powers recognizes the youth and precipitates tragedy. Following Sayeed’s much-prized debut feature “Kitton Khola,” “Conch” rather self-consciously creates a land that time forgot in the village of Nayanpur, a kind of Bangla Macondo full of magic, demons, grave-robbers and omens. Unfortunately the narrative structure starts fuzzily and grows weaker. S.I. Tutul’s haunting music and Mahfuzur Rahman Khan’s pictorial camerawork underline a feeling of dreamy poetry.