Directed by: #SushrutBhowmik
Written by: #SushrutBhowmik
In very much the same vein as 1995’s Jumanji, a mysterious game shows up at the Chatterjees’ door. Rather than a casual way to spend a Saturday afternoon, this game presents more problems than the two children, (Hritam and Dikshita Bhowmik), bargained for. The game in The Temple of Iku has only two rules. You can’t quit the game, and when you’re done, you have to pass the game on. The game is controlled by the mysterious group who pledge their loyalty to Iku – or the God of death. This group are even more sinister than they initially appear. They don’t just pledge allegiance to Iku; they have the power to switch souls. Soon a very ordinary family is caught up in a game where one move could mean death, or worse – life with half a soul.
This film is simmering with imagination and passion, but it fails to bring any of that to the boil. The Temple of Iku starts with an introductory sequence, like in Lord of the Rings. Instead of Cate Blanchett’s soothing voice murmuring the films’ lore, The Temple of Iku uses a riot of images of skeletons and myths alongside text explaining its myth. While this sequence is imaginative and compelling, there’s too much information to keep on top of. What’s worse, the established mythos is barely referenced after the title sequence ends. The world-building is excessively explained and winds up feeling redundant, and this problem bleeds into the plot as well. Many plot points are mentioned rather than seen, and the cast’s various conundrums are often solved via a handy phone call. To its detriment, this is a film that champions exposition and neglects plot and character development.
The camera work ruins any kernel of imagination or storytelling. Through unnecessary fuzziness and flat imagery, the film fails to look cinematic, and the visuals do little to inform the audience about what is actually going on. This is down to, in part, the special effects and choppy editing. The most polished fantasy films spend years building sets, making costumes and spending millions of dollars in post-production, and that kind of Hollywood quality isn’t something you can expect in an indie film. But one can expect clear images and consistency. The real sequences and the magical sequences are so disconnected that the audience is unpleasantly jerked from every scene. This is a problem that the editing shares too – we are constantly plunged into black screens and silence. It’s like waiting for a set change at the theatre. This disruption shatters the potential this film had. Sushrut Bhowmik uses a layering technique in the game scenes to create a sense of wonder and fear, but the audience can’t even lose themselves in the sequence and let the film wash over them.
While full of promise, The Temple of Iku fails to live up to what it promised in the title sequence. No idea can translate well with a weak script, and the audience isn’t even given a chance to relax and enjoy what is in front of them. You don’t need to pass GO for this one.