Monday, July 10, 2017

Taj Mahal: La vie de Louise

From the subject matter of Taj Mahal and his previous film Espion(s), you can tell that the French director Nicolas Saada is interested in terrorism. With everything that is going on in the world, most notably the rise of religious fundamentalism and public attacks, there is cause for concern. The réel of Taj Mahal are the 2008 Mumbai Attacks: amongst a coordinated attack on the city by an Islamic militant organization the Taj Mahal hotel was invaded by the Lashkar-e-Taiba group with rifles and explosives where they murdered and took hostages before finally setting fire to the building. From this grave historical event Saada focuses on the story of Louise (here played by the excellent Stacy Martin), based on a real Parisian woman that lived through the attack, to try to grasp how it must be to viscerally and emotionally live through such an extreme situation. Louise is a young woman and is staying at the hotel with her parents who are in India for work. One night when they go out for dinner the hotel gets invaded and she’s trapped in there. Taj Mahal is both tragic and intense as you follow Louise’s story: from hiding in her room, getting in contact with others and finally escaping the burning building through a window. You’re never quite sure about her fate, though you suspect that it won’t end well. Knowing Saada’s a cinephile director you could see in Taj Mahal shades of Hitchcock (Saboteur) and contemporary Indian thrillers (there’s even a scene where Louise buys a Mani Kaul film). But perhaps it’s Alain Renais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour, which Louise watches right before the attack, that best highlights Taj Mahal’s project: an ode to the fallen of these disastrous events and to the courage and anxiety of the survivors that live on.

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