The Light of the Moon premiers on Amazon Prime on Feb 28
Rape is not a novel plot point in cinema. The 1978 Hindi film, Ghar, starring a brilliant actress like Rekha and a sensitive star like Vinod Mehra shows the traumatic aftermath of a rape perpetuated in the presence of the husband. Walking back home after a late night movie show, the the two are waylaid by ruffians, who knock the husband unconscious and brutalize the wife, and when the incident becomes the fodder for unethical journalists and election campaigns, the couple face distress, dilemma, hurt and humiliation.
Jessica M Thomson's English-language title, The Light of the Moon – which premiers on Amazon Prime on February 28 – has a somewhat similar story line in which rape becomes the focal point, provoking a series of incidents in several directions. For one, Thomson's protagonist, Bonnie (played with a remarkable touch of tragic realism), is also walking back home in New Yorks's Brooklyn when a lone, masked man drags her into a dark alley and rapes her. The scene has been handled with utmost sensitivity, and we see only Bonnie's pained face in a tight closeup.
Matt ( Michael Stahl-David) -- having refused to accompany his girlfriend Bonnie that evening on her outing with colleagues to a local bar, where she has one too many to drink -- is wracked with guilt, and gets over-protective. Bonnie' finds this change irksome, little understanding that it is Matt's troubled conscience which is at work.
In the office, Bonnie hides the fact that she was assaulted, and chooses to explain her bruised face as the result of a mugging incident. She does not even – despite Matt's advice – confide in her own mother, and all this leads to a breakdown in the relationship between the lovers.
Thompson’s approach to the angst and anguish of her victim is stark and matter-of-fact. The brusque cops and the unfeeling staff at the clinic, where Bonnie goes soon after the harrowing episode, have been shown with threadbare coldness that adds to her discomfort, and which later pushes her away from Matt. Her rather unsuccessful attempt at telling herself and the world around her that all is well seems unnatural to Matt, who gets more and more perplexed.
A point is reached when Bonnie realizes that her piece of acting does no good to her and Matt. And it is this transformation in Bonnie which appears to have been hurried through – and feels somewhat forced. Thompson’s debut feature, The Light of the Moon, is a bit rough as far production values go, and some of the secondary characters appear a tad superficial.
But, yes the director displays considerable restraint in tackling a subject as horrific as rape – something Indian writers and helmers, given as they are to dramatic over indulgence, need to learn.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)