Friday, December 16, 2016

Conrad Rooks: 'Siddhartha' (1972)

Siddhartha, Conrad Rooks' 1972 movie adaptation of Herman Hesse's short novel of the same name (German, 1922; English, 1951), does justice to the original. Though the acting is gently stylized, not "naturalistic," this doesn't bother me in the least. Here and in other ways, Rooks' Siddhartha is on a Buddhist-style par with the Christian-oriented films Pilgrim's Progress (1978) and Christiana (1979). I find all three more enjoyable and more interesting than the majority of films that I've seen over the years. Probably because the stakes are so high, and so relevant to every one of us at all times.

Siddhartha's look benefits from the Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist (1922-2006), probably better known as an Ingmar Bergman collaborator. And it's nice having actual Indian actors playing all the parts, with Indian music in the background, and Indian architecture and ecosystems as the visual backdrop. 
Simi Garewal as Kamala, Shashi Kapoor as Siddhartha
As for the director Conrad Rooks (1934-2011), he was an interesting fellow in his own right. Beneficiary of Avon wealth (as in, "Avon lady here"), he shook off adult alcoholism and drug addiction through a Swiss "sleeping cure" and then went on to make Siddhartha. His earlier film Chappaqua (1967), is a chaotic mess, but it does have some groovy scenes with William S. Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, Ornette Coleman, Ravi Shankar and Moondog, among others. 
Nothing remains the same
Everything changes
Everything returns

Today's Rune: Partnership.   


the walking man said...

Having never seen the film i do recall that Hess' book was one the first I read without it being an "assignment" so many decades ago. Probably something my parents had left laying around.

Charles Gramlich said...

Haven't seen the movie but the book was very good.