The River of Fables
Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
A teenage girl’s arranged marriage to a python is only the beginning of the spellbinding eeriness that saturates Bhaskar Hazarika’s The River of Fables, which unfolds like a haunting fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.
Inspired by Assamese folklore compiled in Lakshminath Bezbaroa’s Burhi Aair Sadhu (Grandma’s Tales), Hazarika offers us four parables about motherhood for the price of one. In one, a stepmother plots the murder of her husband’s daughter. In another, a distressed wife pleads with her husband not to bury their infant alive like their other children… Adding to the supernatural overtones, a wealthy mother marries off her second daughter to a snake from the woods. And, finally, a woman is ominously followed by the outenga to which she gave birth. Each story is a cautionary tale concerning witchcraft and wickedness, and the proceedings are rendered all the more otherworldly by the fact they’re set in a modern milieu and staged in a style that borders on social realism.
“Making his debut as a film director, Hazarika offers suspenseful, mysterious storytelling always one happy step into the realm of magic… What strengthens the film is how, alongside the supernatural elements of the stories, Hazarika offers a realistic treatment of the characters, making these unearthly tales seem almost plausible.”—Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter