Short Film Review: A Fallen Fruit (2019)

Amit Dubey’s A Fallen Fruit is both a meditation on loss and the Buddhist concept of a life cycle as the supreme order of things, as well as a kind of visual hypnosis with its ponderous shots of life in a rustic village in Cambodia. Amidst all that, one must not miss a curious sight of a school of chicks frantically chasing after their mother trapped in a basket, dragged along the walkway by a boy. On the surface, it is a priceless National Geographic moment of wildlife is its most ‘human’ form on display. On another level, when the credit roll, one would realise the uncanny parallel in that moment of distress.

A Fallen Fruit is an understated, almost observational portrait of a young village boy dealing with the death of his mother and his father introducing new members into the family including a new wife and her daughter. These elements of displacement are quietly weaved in, giving the audience head space to gradually identify the disparate pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. The boy is abruptly and matter-of-factly introduced to his new sister by his father as an 'extra pair of hands for chores'. Then comes a particularly intriguing scene anchored on the boy’s point-of-view gaze at a lady of unknown identity praying to the portrait of another lady who seems like her contemporary. It is only a few scenes later when night falls that the film reveals the deceased is the boy’s mother.

The film is particularly distinguished by its sure-handed and rich use of visual imagery to convey the awkward transition in family life for the boy and others in the family. The film opens with a nod to its title, depicting the boy dislodging a fruit from a tree, almost a salient allegory to the death of his mother. On yet another level, there is something Buddhist about casting a dispassionate glance at the process of something perishing. Then there is the inanimate shot of the cricket nets standing out in the field and casting a glow on the field from its florescent light tubes, seeming almost ominous. One will also find it difficult to forget the hypnotic shot of what looks like the boy’s grandfather, whose wrinkled facial contortions seem to echo a sense of alienation with the growing complexities of his family life.

But most of all, crickets form the film’s most compelling motif. It is a visual glue to the film’s narrative, joining scenes in the village and the field to the city’s marketplace where they turn from throbbing insects into crunchy food morsels. They also seem like a subtle nod to the idea of reincarnation. The camera offers a close-up gaze of the crickets drawn to the florescent tube in the middle of the night and as the boy, still besieged with his loss looks on, we are left to ponder if what the scriptures say about the circularity of life is true.

The film has screened at several film festivals including the Palm Springs Shortfest and will next screen at the Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival from 3-6 September 2020, in competition in the Short Film category.

Review by Jeremy Sing

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