“Amen is a movie made of ordinary people with an extraordinary story to tell. It’s a movie that demands not just your attention but your participation in celebrating their story. And in the process of celebration, you will be served legends, band music and vulgar jokes, garnished with a dash of magic”.
Movie starts with a famous Bible verse from the book of John; “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”. A bit of context may be of help to better understand this passage and by extension its implications on the movie. In the Gospel account Jesus is unhappy at the spiritual deadness of Galileans and points towards the people of Samaritans who needed no miracles to believe. Galileans remain blissfully ignorant of the magic (Jesus) that dwells among humanity.
In a way Amen can be interpreted as a subtle commentary on our spiritual complacency and reluctance to seek the magic in reality. Perhaps, that’s why the question ‘do we take magic for granted’ echoes in our mind long after seeing the movie. As though to give us a sign of things to expect, movie then follows a bizarre mix-up between two families, resulting in them losing their cool and going for the jugular. Story quickly hits the ground running with a lucid, though dreamy sequence involving Solomon (Fahad Fazil) and his deceased father who is accompanied by two angels. In this scene you see the father, a famed Clarinet player, confident in his son’s abilities, urging him on to rise up to the occasion.
In the quaint village where everyone wears their heart on their sleeves, Solomon is an insecure musician of few words. Solomon can barely hold his nerve while auditioning for Gheevarghese band. But he shows no signs of nervousness when he serenades Shoshanna who looks on longingly by her room window. The movie has a script which is at once naively playful and artistically sophisticated. Writing process is pretty straightforward till the appearance of the quick-witted Father Vattoli whose charisma and sophistication hold together much of plot’s dynamics. In a dramatic turn of events, Solomon ends up getting a chance to secure the future of the band and marry Shoshanna. Fahad nails the character of struggling musician who is desperate to follow in the footsteps of father and make a mark of his own.
Among many things Amen is a Musical comedy. The film uses music as an effective medium of communication by putting into songs various emotions that could not be expressed through mere spoken words. Musicals possess the ability to transcend boundaries of dialogues and evoke emotions that are much higher and closer to heart. At times I felt Amen succeeded in translating those emotions into dancing, singing and pure joy.
Lijo jose pellissery is engaged in a revolt against time-honored cinematic conventions and this time he harnesses the raw emotions of music to drive home his message. Advancing the story using a mixture of crude humor, uncouth personalities and a tale of woes can easily go awry and get messy. But the music serves as a fine counterpoint to the cacophony. The movie is by no means perfect and the storytelling process doesn’t have a logical structure we have grown used to seeing in well-wrought Malayalam movies. What it does capture with graceful ease is the moment of collective epiphany and camaraderie between musicians.
While most movies, in their fetishistic pursuit of perfection, lose touch with reality, Amen explores magic in the ordinariness. However, as is often the case with ambitious filmmaking, movie is not bereft of flaws. Amen is guilty of overusing comedy tropes to the point of annoyance. The movie also at times suffers from a lack of self-control while bordering on vacuous sensationalism. But it is foolish to be bogged down in the quirky details of the screenplay, and not see the larger points at stake. The movie is so good in many aspects that the average viewer with an eye for the extra-ordinary will unhesitatingly forgive its glaring errors.
The panoramic shots deftly capture the music-laden drama in the small village. Dreams seen by characters are a recurring theme that shapes the course of narrative. As Solomon fights for his band’s future and the love of his life, giving an exhilarating clarinet solo, even viewers with a tin ear for the tonalities of music are drawn right into the thick of it.