The Cloud and The Man is a beautiful film. It tells the story of a man’s relationship with a cloud, much as the title would suggest. Yet in a subtle, sensitive way, it weaves a charming narrative of a man lost in the world who finds an emotional connection with a cloud no one else can see that manages to resonate with the audience deeply in a way that is hard to explain.
The film opens with a slow exploration of Manik’s life in Kolkata. He is an office worker with a love of plants and insects. The terrace of his home is covered in plants of all shapes and varieties that he carefully nurtures every day. His father, with whom he lives, is extremely frail and Manik must feed and wash him daily. He works in an office, dealing with generic piles of paperwork. Manik shuffles through his day, yet does everything with sensitive care, whether it is eating his lunch or picking up an ant.
However, things start to go wrong in his life, upsetting his status quo and well-established routine. The film lingers on his daily life, establishing it in rich detail before it is disrupted, rendering the change all the more obvious. In small and large ways, Manik’s life falls off-kilter. His father dies, he is cut whilst shaving his head and he receives an eviction notice. And most troubling at all, he is being followed by a cloud no one else can see.
Shot in soft black and white and anchored by a laconic yet extremely expressive performance by Chandan Sen as Manik, the film is told with extreme delicacy. Without hearing more than a few sentences spoken by him in the film, we get to know Malik intimately. When one day it begins to rain, his child-like joy is infectious. His gentle and caring treatment of insects and his plants (upon which he practically dotes) is conveyed through nuanced gestures. The scenes in which he interacts with the cloud are extremely engaging.
The film tracks Malik’s transformation from a strict, mundane routine which feels colourless and stale to a place where he begins to stop caring about small irritations (and even big ones). Each step along the way is subtle – breaks in his routine, his initial fear of the cloud – and yet the effect on him is palpable and transfers to us. Small choices by Abhinandan Banerjee, the thirty-year-old director, have a big impact. We feel Manik change more than anything else.
The Cloud and The Man is a beautiful film because it engages you emotionally without ever being explicit. Nothing is explained and yet everything makes sense. Manik is a protagonist with whom our audience members immediately connect and remain linked right until the film ends. Before the film begins, a short quote from Don Quixote appears on-screen: “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?” Manik’s journey, mad on the surface, feels right – perhaps it is its unexplained randomness, its lunatic, that makes it so hauntingly beautiful.
The Cloud and The Man had its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on August 13th.
Image courtesy of EIFF, provided to The Student as press material.