Lust (2018)

I can’t claim to know exactly what Lust is trying to say, but I do know it’s deadly serious about it.  In fact, this is probably the most dour movie ever made with the word “lust” in the title.  Director Sudeep Ranjan Sarkar certainly deserves a few kudos for delivering a stark, visually fascinating allegory on lust and desire through the ages, but Lust lacks the coherence or storytelling panache for its Bold Questions to have much of an impact.

The film presents its heavy-handed musings in the form of three disparate stories:  A nymphomaniac confesses her randy appetites to a jittery priest, while also attempting to seduce him.  This sequence leads to some of Lust‘s most graphic sexual imagery, which isn’t for the squeamish.  Later, a nun finds herself in an ethical quandary concerning the health of her blind sister.  If she surrenders her moral high ground, will the ends justify the means?  This is the most compelling of the three stories, and it could’ve easily justified an entire movie by itself.  As is, this plot thread feels frustratingly underdeveloped.  Lust‘s final stretch takes us to the future, where robots inhabit a hive world stripped not only of illicit impulses, but also love and compassion.

All of that is just as dark and strange as it sounds.  Lust, shot entirely in black-and-white, shows us characters in varying degrees of frustration and misery.  Their dialogue consists of broad philosophical pronouncements, without much actual character development.  Each story is bookended by severe narration, which gives the entire film the feel of a dirge.  Basically, Lust is just too serious for its own good.

That said, there were a few things I found intriguing about it.  Sarkar gives us a few moments of cinematic poetry, such as when the flapping of a caught bird cuts to a shot of a toy bird.  This foreshadows the story’s transition from real humans to mechanical ones, and it’s a nice visual touch.  I’m a sucker for black-and-white cinematography, and Lust has a some arresting shots sprinkled into it.

The mostly-bland, highly-marketable buffet of American cinema has rendered me much more amenable to movies that have the moxie to aim for bigger, bolder subject matter.  Lust has high ambitions and is unapologetically edgy about them.  It does make you think deeply about the subject matter.  Still, other movies have covered similar ground and offered more entertainment at a faster pace.  Hopefully, Sudeep Ranjan Sarkar will utilize his striking visual flair in a brighter, more balanced film than this.

69 min.  I’m guessing this would be rated a strong ‘R’ in the States.

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Author: Todd Wofford

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