Anatomy of Violence

Deepa MehtaCanada / India93 minutes201618AColourHindi

Celebrated filmmaker Deepa Mehta investigates one of India’s most notorious crimes — the 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a Delhi bus — in her angry, impassioned and essential new film.

In December 2012, a 23-year-old woman and her friend got on a private bus in Delhi. The men already on board — five passengers and the bus driver — gang-raped the woman, beat her friend, and threw them onto the street. The woman died of her injuries two weeks later. The case made worldwide news and was instrumental in activating Indian policy discussions about women's rights and the government's duty to prosecute for rape.

Deepa Mehta's Anatomy of Violence takes a fearless approach to the topic. In collaboration with theatre artist Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry, Mehta worked improvisationally with her actors to envisage possible sociological and psychological backgrounds and pasts for the perpetrators and the victim. The film posits formative events in the men's lives, imagining the origins of their violent, remorseless personalities, while presenting the woman's life in parallel.

Unburdened by the weight of a large production, which can sometimes crush an artistic inquiry into the shape of a conventional narrative, Mehta pares things down to the essentials. The film seeks something other than an onscreen trial of these particular individuals. While still holding them accountable, it denounces the patriarchal culture and the cycle of abuse that fed their dark impulses, and the economic system that leaves its disadvantaged classes in desperate straits.

Mehta's brilliant and celebrated oeuvre has been consistently concerned with human rights. Continuing in this vein, Anatomy of Violence challenges her audience to enter unsettling territory. This is an incredibly courageous work of cinema.