A blind painter meets a man one day who shows interest in the young artist’s life. The painter recounts what brought him to the city, a tragic tale centered around the abduction and disappearance of his mother.
“Paintings in the Dark” looks to build strength through the uplifting narrative of a young man overcoming great diversity. On paper, it is a fascinating look at a man trying to navigate through a society’s dark underbelly. Unfortunately, the actual execution of the plot is damaged by (most notably) two different issues that make the story difficult to embrace. Firstly, the film suffers from obvious pacing issues in long, dialogue free, scenes which are meant to convey the protagonist’s personal growth. This is exemplified in his romantic interest where the couple’s bond is established through montages of them exploring the area together, but neglects offering up convincing dialogue as to why the two become romantically entwined.
Secondly, the only emotion that can be attached to the blind man is that of sympathy. In a charter driven piece, particularly one of self discovery and growth, empathy becomes crucial in audience involvement. Unfortunately, the protagonist is in an almost constant state of sorrow, and is largely portrayed as weak and at the whim of others. With the only reprise from his sorrow coming in the film’s climax (when someone else discovers his talent), the film would have benefited greatly from offering a modicum of self sufficient strength to the protagonist. Overall, the focal point is rather lifeless for a film which emotional engagement is at the crux of its success.
The film manages to present some strong visuals through good location work, and willingness to explore different techniques for certain shots. However, there are some blocking issues in some dialogue scenes that feel a bit awkward in execution, and cut too heavily back and forth between people. Thankfully, this is just a minor issue and only became noticeable because of the rest of the film carries stylistic charm.
Unfortunately, for the amount of success within the visual presentation the film is really let down by the audio both in score and actor line delivery. The score consists of (what sounds like) stock music meant to evoke feelings of sadness. However, the score is rather unrelenting for the bulk of the production and at such a high volume drowns out other audio. What further exasperates the cheap audio drone is the choice to keep the lead actor in an almost constant state of sorrow through each line delivery. A centralized character in a drama should present a degree of strength, even just for a break from the constant sobs. The character’s main plight is undoubtedly sad, and his sorrow makes sense, but the bombardment of sombre stock music and a young man crying is extremely grating after some time.
“Paintings in the Dark” is definitely rough around the edges, and contains some questionable directorial choices. However, there is still a degree of charm to be found in an uplifting message and (mostly) strong cinematography. There is definitely enough to admire within Satyajit Das film to harbor interest in further projects, but on its own “Paintings in the Dark” is a rather tedious affair.