VIFF 2016 | Pihu

Posted by Fatima Ahmed & filed under VIFF.


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Dir: Vinod Kapri | Panorama | Youth | Contemporary World Cinema | India | 2016 | 94 mins
Sept. 30, 9:15 pm | SFU Goldcorp Centre For The Arts
Oct. 2, 1:45 pm | International Village 9

Welcome to Home Alone, but with a dark twist. Vinod Kapri takes on the impossible with a character driven film based on the titular two-year-old girl, Pihu. Pihu, a young child, finds herself alone at home because of circumstances that unfold in the duration of the film. The camera follows Pihu around as she spends a solitary afternoon in the midst of a threatening atmosphere which quickly and quietly usurps the story. Moreover, the narrative unfolds like a psychological thriller that hinges on the character of the toddler. Can it be done? Spoiler alert: yes.

Pihu is exactly the kind of suburban psychological horror that keeps you on the edge of your seat ready to rip out the arm rest. The film is shot in a minimalist style, with the audience only ever seeing two characters on screen: Pihu and her mother Puja. Although, from the beginning, the audience is ominously aware that Pihu is alone. Trapped to the confines of the house, the movie plays on all the fears of the human psyche. Kapri makes smart decisions by keeping the movie short and tight with a narrow focus on Pihu’s point of view. Pihu’s character appears realistic, as a normal two-year-old child would behave. Yet, he manages to keep her interesting without seeming burdensome for the most part. Moreover, Pihu delivers a flawless performance which will truly resonate with the audience in the most unsettling way. And be warned, this movie is very unsettling. It capitalizes on the primal urge of humans to protect a child, a deep-seated curiosity to learn more about peculiar situations, and a desperation to resolve an easy-to-fix conflict.

At times, however, the movie feels repetitive as similar obstacles keep arising. The child is in constant danger from the supposedly mundane environment that surrounds her. And it almost turns into a tedious survival movie. Yet, because the main character is a child and because she doesn’t know any better, this shortcoming can be forgiven. The film also tries to be heavy-handed when it preaches about the dangers of suicide. Toward the end, the film calls suicide an act of weakness and almost blames the victim of the situation. Suffice it to say, Pihu might itself be unaware of what it’s about. Instead of a commentary on the dangers and tragedies of suicide, it is undoubtedly about the constant threat of innate fears that lurk in the human psyche. Is this movie a deep analysis of a poignant aspect of life? No. Does it conduct an interesting experiment regarding fear, suspense, film, and character? Yes. If you’re looking for the next intelligent and profound piece of cinema, this isn’t it. But if you’re a fan of thrillers and want to see someone experiment with the genre, this is definitely worth the experience.

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