Film

The Warrior (2001)

Cynthia Fuchs

As efficient as he has been over his long and fearful career, Lafcadia's will to change comes on him with a rush.


The Warrior

Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Irfan Khan, Puru Chhibber, Sheikh Annuddin, Manoj Mishra, Nanhe Khan, Chnder Singh, Hemant Maahaor, Noor Mani
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Miramax
First date: 2001
US Release Date: 2005-07-15 (Limited release)

A mournful meditation on killing for a living, Asif Kapadia's film is by turns poetic and preachy. It's also unexpectedly gripping, as it follows the crisis of conscience suffered by a Rajput mercenary, and his efforts to make sense of his remorse and the bloody horrors he's left in his wake.

Lafcadia (Irfan Khan) first appears practicing his ancient art, wielding his sword in the India's northwestern desert, perfecting his murderous stroke. As the early scenes reveal, he is his warlord's (Anupam Shyam) most efficient, most ruthless minion, willing to menace, rape, behead, and slice up peasants who fall behind on taxes as well, as well as show off his skills while fighting other warriors. Commanding his men, including the ambitious Biswas (Aino Annuddin), with deft assurance, he rebuffs his son Katiba's (Puru Chibber) pleas to come along for a raid, less because he wants to protect him than because the boy is unable to keep track of his grandfather's dagger. Efficiency and self-awareness: the warrior's most useful skills.

As efficient as he has been over his long and fearful career, Lafcadia's will to change comes on him with a rush. Having arrived at the site of his latest raid, a village where again, payments have fallen behind, he faces a young girl, even as his men whirl and strike down unarmed folks around him. Time seems to freeze and fly at once: Lafcadia is suddenly surrounded by snow and wind, then heat and dust, not to mention ghosts of his many victims. Though he sees now that he must stop, his growly lord sees his decision as disloyalty ("No one leaves my service"), and sends Lafcadia's own men to execute him. As Lafcadia has already sworn "never [to] lift a sword again," he's left at rather a disadvantage with the vengeance-takers.

Alone and bereft, the warrior endeavors to lose himself in the Himalayas, along the way stumbling on two figures who judge him very differently. A young thief, Riaz (Noor Mani), sees in the warrior a model of virility and courage, whereas a blind woman (Damayanti Marfitia) rejects his help and announces, "You have blood written all over your face." Try as he might, Lafcadia is unable to escape his past, which means he must return to the violence he has renounced in order to save someone else.

Though its themes are hackneyed (or perhaps timeless, depending on your point of view), The Warrior is sustained by Roman Osin's stunning cinematography (featuring several objective correlatives -- endless horizons, desolate desertscapes, smoldering, post-attack villages -- as well as Khan's face, which fills the frame repeatedly. Working a backstory that draws from Sergio Leone and Akira Kurusowa movies, Lafcadia combines ferocity and vulnerability in a way that more than makes up for his lack of dialogue.

It's worth wondering, for a minute, why this 2001 film is only now being released in the U.S. Yes, the release has to do with Miramax's current "fire sale" of all its long-shelved titles. But why has it languished for so long? It's tempting to speculate that perhaps execs worried that its brutality was excessive (though the most violent acts take place off screen), or that its overt rejection of retribution was a hard sell following 9/11. Or maybe it was only that it had Anthony Minghella's name attached (as in, "presents").

Whatever the reasoning, The Warrior offers serious consideration of the tolls exacted by violence, whether directed against helpless victims or worthy foes, and even when the aggressor presumes his righteousness, as an employee, a man acting according to duty. But what happens when the warrior can't claim innocence in "just doing his job"? At once the film's most provocative and poignant question, this indictment of the warrior dissolves conventional viewer sympathy or identification, and leaves all kinds of room for doubt.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image