Directed by: #KundanSad
Written by: #MohammadHassanAli
Moving-image works primarily set in a single location typically allow their authors to explore the theme of human endeavour in the face of external adversity. As a sole protagonist occupies Kundan Sad’s dingy, claustrophobic locale throughout ‘+-’, the work ostensibly allows the filmmaker to join similar creative ranks. Nevertheless, ‘+-’ ultimately fails to recapture the philosophical potency of its compeers.
‘+-’ opens with the awakening of an unnamed man in a geographically indeterminate room. An explanation is not provided to justify his present predicament. Nor is it made any clearer how he can escape these confines. However, a random assortment of items is made available to our protagonist at the behest of a mysterious outside figure. At their least, the objects in are utilised to stave off the man's boredom. At their most, they keep him alive and offer a possibility for escape provided that the right connections amidst the miscellany are made in time.
An array of creative minds ranging from Danny Boyle (127 Hours) to Seth MacFarlane (“Stewie & Brian”, Family Guy) have adopted the single location trope to explore the aforementioned absurdist themes. As the narrative device itself is far from novel, Sad, as well as screenwriter Mohammad Hassan Ali, are due praise for their fresh retelling of a familiar formula with ‘+-’. Whereas Ali displays a wicked imagination with his enticingly erratic selection of items, their deadpan representation in Sad’s frames astutely engages the ingenuity of the spectator in tandem with our confused protagonist. None of the present objects are privileged over another throughout ‘+-’. Moreover, their superficial use is not necessarily their designated purpose within the chamber. Sad and Ali’s work therefore provides an ostensibly intuitive construction of an absurd environment that individual's are unwittingly forced to negotiate.
Unfortunately, despite this early promise of an intellectual stimulating work, the lack of actual development throughout ‘+-’ fails to sustain the spectator’s interest. In the film’s earliest stages, the unnamed man’s failures to correctly use certain items are as engrossing as his successes. The spectator is no longer required to consider how each component of the miscellany can assist the protagonist’s situation, but how it could be a detriment. It shortly becomes apparent however that despite the man’s desperation to escape, there is no reason for the audience to share his anguish. There is no sense of an imperative. There is very little shifts predictability. There is nothing throughout the film that motivates the spectator to care about anything other than the outcome of his freedom. Such pacing issues consequently render each episode a frustrating interference of the work’s conclusion rather than add to the philosophical depth of ‘+-’.
There is a sense that Sad was not oblivious to the capacity for ‘+-’ to be monotonous. Ambar Bhartiya’s piercingly gripping scores alongside Sagar Studios’ sound effects provide an immense tactility that is present at any given moment of the film. Additionally, Ganesh Deshmukh's silently diverse performance somehow preserves the spectator's attention despite their overall declining mental participation. For sure, '+-’ is far from a poorly made film. Rather, the work is a false promise of a mentally stimulating film due to an absence of anything within its narrative to be stimulated by.