Igillena maluwo

Debuting helmer Sanjeewa Pushpakumara has no problem conveying the sense of a lush country numbed by civil war, but he also wants to give “Flying Fish” a narrative despite having little sense of how to construct one story, let alone three. Aiming for some of the atmospheric despair of Vimukthi Jayasundara’s “The Forbidden Land,” pic manages only incoherence and degradation without end. Sri Lanka’s brutal internal strife has traumatized the nation, yet Pushpakumara overdoes the humiliation and never grasps the drama, making this Hubert Bals Fund special merely a muddled patience-tester.

Occasional striking images can’t compensate for the absence of narrative pull, leading to confusion between characters and storylines; only the pressbook seems to know what’s going on. Men kill, screw and exploit while women screw, give birth and suffer. Families are shattered and social bonds corrupted as the army and the Tamil rebels trample over their land and honor, with recurring images of insects, ruins and urination providing further proof of the nation’s debasement. Impressionistic filmmaking is fine, but Pushpakumara seems uncertain how to achieve his goals aside from taking tragedy to a ridiculous degree.

Camera (color), Viswajith Karunarathna; editors, Ravindra Guruge, Ajith Ramanayake; music, Tharindu Priyankara De Silva; production, costume designer, Bimala Dushmantha. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Feb. 1, 2011. Running time: 124 MIN.

By Jay Weissberg / Variety