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Monsoon Wedding

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Monsoon Wedding
from Film Forum, 03/14/02

The year's first major foreign film, Monsoon Wedding, comes from India, offering yet another tale of the confining, frustrating nature of arranged marriages and the importance of personal choice and true love. The heroine accepts the arranged marriage as the normal path of tradition, but is reluctant to give up her affair with a married TV-show host.

John Adair (Preview) calls the film "a truly special movie about the connection, support, and encouragement people can find in and through their families. Issues range from [the bride] dealing with feelings for her ex-boyfriend, to problems within existing marriages, and even past instances of family abuse. The film handles each of these and others effortlessly and, with such reality, that they truly hit home with the audience." But he counts bad language as reason enough not to go see it after all.

Mainstream critics highlighted the film's unique portrayal of modern India. "This may be India, but a lot of it looks familiar," says Mike Clark (USA Today). "Everyone clutches a cell phone, and the TV host's show of hot-button issues could fit in on American cable. Yet this is a ceremony in which traditional rituals are respected and expected. Some of the movie's best scenes … involve musical interludes: an elaborate dance that has been planned as a centerpiece ceremony and a wonderful interlude in which the female guests sing a traditional song."

Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly) observes, "The director … wants to immerse us in the ways that the spirit of the world has changed. Americanization has left the Vermas a little unhinged, but it's also something they embrace. The characters keep whipping back and forth, right in the middle of conversations, between Punjabi and English, and this is more than a matter of multilingualism. The current of technology has jumbled everyone up, speeding forward the pulse of their lives."

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) writes, "There's such an unreasonable prejudice in this country against any film that is not exactly like every other film. People cheerfully attend assembly-line junk but are wary of movies that might give them new experiences or take them to new places. Monsoon Wedding … is the kind of film where you meet characters you have never been within 10,000 miles of, and feel like you know them at once."

Monsoon Wedding joins a long list of films about the problem of arranged marriages and the influence of Western liberties on Eastern traditions. Last year's East is East remains the most powerful and challenging comedy I've seen on the subject. But too many of these films, while revealing the destructive nature of oppressive traditions, end up declaring the wrong answer—"Follow your heart." The human heart is a deceptive thing, far too susceptible to destructive appetites, to pride, and to näiveté.True love is not instinctual. It is godly, something we aspire to, and it's far more about selflessness than about getting what you want.

Two Weddings and a Baptism

It's still impossible to predict what will advance the gospel in Hollywood.

by Andy Crouch
Christianity Today, October 2003