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original title: The Dance of Shiva
keywords: chaplain, westernfront, hindu, epilepsy, india, worldwarone, sergeant, chess, independentfilm
As a footnote I was also shocked to see that two voters on this board have awarded DANCE OF THE SHIVA one out of ten . What ? These two voters think this short film is the worst thing they have ever seen ? I guess they must be from Pakistan Here's the great thing about Dance of Shiva, now that I've watched it. If you start painting all your fingernails and toenails during the opening sequences, they will be completely dry when the movie ends. The movie ends neither too soon, which would leave them still tacky when you got up to turn it off, nor does it run long enough to disqualify it as a good excuse to sit down and paint your nails and let them dry thoroughly before starting in on any other projects.
Briefly, because there's really no other way to discuss it, this short film attempts to tell something about the heroism shown by a troop of Bengal Lancers under British command during WWI, and by Bengal, I mean they are Bengali, from India. Paul McGann plays a chaplain who is trying to reconcile his mission as a promoter of the Christian faith with the very laudable goal of trying to respect the Hindu religious beliefs and philosophy which unify his Bengal unit and are the source of their courage and strength. Shiva dances the dance of life and death, entertwined, you see, so one feeds upon the other, and there is no reason to be afraid of either. The British don't see it quite the same way, of course, and so Sam West eventually shows up in the arrogant twit Aryan bigot role to throw up on his boots when confronted with the grim realities of trench warfare. But really, there's not any actual plot--as such.
Samuel West has hardly any lines in this movie, which is sort of a crime when you consider the folly of hiring one of the most golden-throated actors in all of England to be in your short flick, and then not giving him much more to say other than..."Ooof....urp.....glgugggggghhhrrggg....<splat>". Not cool. However, those of you who felt that his syphilitic seizures in "The Ripper" compared unfavorably to Jamie Bamber's epileptic fits in the role of Horatio Hornblower's "Archie Kennedy" (which they did) will be greatly reassured by the the realistic portrayal of shivering and puking and attempting to keep from puking in Shiva. I suppose it's simply a matter of matching the sudden-onset, uncontrollable, publicly-disturbing, involuntary manifestation of a medical problem to the actor. In Mr. West's case, the barfing and shivering thing was really working well for him.
Horatio Hornblower's Faithful Lt. Bush, Paul McGann, looks great in a priestly collar, but less well in a WWI-era helmet than he does in a bicorn. The timbre of his husky voice is mostly wasted, but he has the opportunity to display that long, beautiful, austere face in a variety of concerned and thoughtful moments of observation, reflection, and compassion. Screencappers, start your engines.
There's a neat little association here for the Potter movie fans. Branagh (bearded) has a few lines in the beginning, which he delivers with characteristic gusto, and then later on, a guy named Julian Glover shows up. Glover was the voice of Aragog the giant spider in Chamber of Secrets, and of course, Branagh was Gilderoy Lockhart.
La, what strange bedfellows these obscure British art-house flicks make.
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