classic film

Five-star cinema: Rene Clement’s ‘Plein Soleil’

The 1960 screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ made Alain Delon a star.

He has been played by Matt Damon, Dennis Hopper, John Malkovich and Barry Pepper, but the definitive portrayal of crime novelist Patricia Highsmith’s most enduring creation was as early as 1960. Damon and Hopper come close to conveying the ruthlessness and ambition of Tom Ripley, but Delon effortless captures his mystique.

Rene Clement’s cool and sexy Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) features Delon as the amoral forger and identity thief who relentlessly journeys into the darkest recesses of the conscience. Clement’s adaptation of Highsmith’s 1955 thriller made a star out of Delon, who was two films old and on the cusp of greatness. The French actor also headlined Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and his Brothers in 1960, and both films set him on a long and rich career in arthouse and popular cinema.

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The trailer of ‘Plein Soleil’.

Delon’s chiselled face, diamond eyes and estimable acting skills are well suited for the role of Ripley, the trickster who swaps his plebian life for another man’s. Clement’s adaptation dispenses with the back story and dives straight into the newfound friendship between Tom and Philippe Greenleaf (Dickie Greenleaf in the novel) that has been built on a lie.

Ripley has conned his way into persuading Philippe’s loaded father that he is a childhood friend of his son and can bring him back from his never-ending holiday along the coast of Italy. The early scenes establish the contrasting characters of the two men – one tanned and flush with the entitlement of wealth, the other lean, hungry-looking and suitably attentive. Philippe (Maurice Ronet) orders Tom about, is rough with his girlfriend Marge (Maria Laforet), and is not above playing a prank on Tom during a sailing trip that nearly kills the young man.

Had Phillippe been more carefully watching Tom’s face, he might have seen the contempt in his eyes, the hardening of his cheek muscles, and the fake smile that barely leaves the lips. French New Wave regular Henri Decae’s rich camerawork, which showcases the beauty of the Italian landscape and the humans who inhabit it, measures the thickening of Tom’s crime file in close-ups of Delon’s expressive face. “I might not look it, but I have lots of imagination,” Tom says to nobody in particular.

Does Philippe get what he deserves? Clement eschews moralising and ignores the homoerotic undertones of Tom’s masquerade of Philippe, but it’s not hard to see why Tom would want what Philippe has – a gorgeous villa in Mongibello, a handsomely furnished apartment in Rome, and the arrogance of privilege. Marge, a budding writer and the only person who seems to care in Plein Soleil’s hardboiled universe, is a bonus.

Alain Delon and Maria Laforet in ‘Plein Soleil’.
Alain Delon and Maria Laforet in ‘Plein Soleil’.

Highsmith loved Delon’s depiction, but didn’t care for the liberties that the movie took with the ending. Tom’s fate in Plein Soleil might be at odds with Highsmith’s plans for the character, but it fits right into Clement’s vision. The movie’s title appears to have been inspired by WB Yeats’s poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree, about an island of beauty and calm where “midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow”. The fantasy is near complete in one of the movie’s most effective close-ups. Tom settles into a beach chair and allows himself a smile that is both boyish and sinister. His hard work, discipline and single-minded focus have paid off, and as he drifts into a dream, he looks every inch the career criminal of Highsmith’s imagination and the future sex symbol of European arthouse cinema.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.