SFIFF 57: The Seventh Walk by Amit Dutta

I dislike using the much-used “innovative” and “avant-garde” to describe the latest by Amit Dutta, but in this case, it is appropriate, particularly the latter. An oblique meditation (also overused, but in this instance absolutely true) on the painter Paramjit Singh and the bucolic Kangra Valley, this film takes us into the heart of the creative spirit and into the of mysterious workings and sources of inspiration and of nature on an artistic (sub)conscious.

Other films about artists tend toward fiction-esque (Pollock, My Left Foot), or an epic/biopic (Gerhard Richter Painting, Ai Wei Wei:Never Sorry) which are filmed from the outside; the artists is the object and we see the external forces which shape his/her legacy, whether politics, movements or domestic drama. The Seventh Walk is absolutely filmed from the inside—the subject is the object of the gaze and his objects frequently become subjects. To be sure there are some sequences of his sketching and painting (the sound of the charcoal against paper and his knife against the canvas was delightful—the aural equivalent of a close-up). But mostly it is as though we are behind the painter’s eyes and in his memories. The camera, the sound design, and the poetry titles guide us through the textures of bark, the movement of leaves, the passage of water, the soft murmur of farmers gossiping, shadows in a cool home; in some surreal tableaux, where he/us imagine(s) a house in the crook of a tree, or a rock levitating, we can begin to grasp the inner workings of our collective, creative, mind. We can even imagine the levity inherent in a dense rock. To convey the utterly complex world of sensory reception, inspiration, and art is an interesting challenge which the filmmakers take on successfully.

What was also striking is the film’s strong aural component, which is almost a sly counterpoint to a very visual medium (despite its elegance). There is the often-surprising score by Mandar Kamlapurkar, which sets the meditative tone, particularly in the beginning. But there were also the myriad sounds of walking, wind, water, trees, shuffling, scraping, painting and much else which I think inflamed the imagination and added to the richness of the visual – particularly as the sounds were not perfectly-timed to the visuals. Even as we are transported to the metaphysical, this actually approximates the sensation of being in a forest, where sound and image don’t always match up. Toward the last of the poetry titles, some audience members were reading it quietly in their own voice, adding yet another surprising layer of sound.

This film screened at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival.

Saatvin Sair (The Seventh Walk), dir. Amit Dutta, 70 min. 2013.