Thursday, 18 May 2017

World Cinema: Sita Sings the Blues (2008) Film Review

Fig 1. Film Poster

Sita Sings the Blues is a 2008 American animated film which was written, directed, produced and animated by American artist Nina Paley. The film features a more sympathetic view of the story of Sita, a loyal wife to Rama, as well as the discussion of history of the characters, and snippets of the artist's own life, with the mythological and modern day stories run parallel throughout the film, sharing themes of loyalty to husbands and proving of fidelity. There are several styles incorporated into the film, such as Indian Shadow Puppets, Traditional paintings, 2D flash animation, and sketchy illustrated animation, each to differentiate between each parallel running narratives.

There are many styles throughout the film that reflect the narrative each segment is telling. The telling of the Ramayana is animated more simply than other parts of the film, with static backgrounds with the characters designed in a more traditional and painted style, to reflect the traditional use of these paintings to tell such stories as the Ramayana, and throughout the film these segments begin to feature slightly more modern comedy. There is little animation, with more posing and positioning of characters than actual animation, as well as simple moving of the mouths to animated speech. This style of design and little animation reflects the historic dialogue it is retelling.

Fig 2. The traditional painting style
The second segments of the film presented a shadow puppet style, which like the painted designs, were too used to tell stories such as the Ramayana. This segment features unscripted narration with comedic moments and discussion of Sita and Rama's life in between the Painted design and the jazz music segments. These segments are very interesting because it presented three different peoples views and variations of the same story, and the style compliments this idea of discussion rather than a direct retelling from a script.

Fig 3. Indian Shadow Puppet style
The third segments of the film feature various jazz music, accompanying a more modern relation to the historic stories, and with a more modern medium or flash-like animation, with more comedy. These segments first create the links between the relation of these old historic stories being relevant in more modern times, allowing for a further link between Sita's story and Nina's story to be made.

Fig 4. The flash-like animated musical style
The final segment of the films that are shown throughout the film is a more illustrative and sketchy, boiling lines type of style, these segments tell the story of the artist Nina, who's husband tells her not to return to him in India, who leaves her heartbroken and is how she came across the Ramayana, to animate into the film being watched all along. The narrative reflects how Sita is rejected by Rama, and presents the idea that the traditional stories have relevance in today's society. Roger Ebert compares that "Both were betrayed by the men they loved. Both were separated by long journeys. Both died (Sita really, Nina symbolically) and were reborn--Sita in the form of a lotus flower, Nina in the form of an outraged woman who moves to Brooklyn, sits down at her home computer for five years and creates this film.” (Ebert, 2009) presenting how both narratives do in deed correlate with each other.

Fig 5. The Sketchy style featuring the life of the Artist
Overall there is a light-hearted and comedic upbeat theme running throughout the film which creates a very enjoyable experience for this interpretation of the Ramayana to be told, blending together a variety of styles and multimedia which creates a very bright and colourful animated film.

Ebert, R. (2009) (Accessed on 17/05/2017)

Illustration List:
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