"Bhakti", the original ballet by Mayrice Béjart, opened in Avignon on 26 July 1968. See more »
exploration of Hindu themes and concepts
I try to be accurate in my reviews, but it is possible that I may be going to lead you astray, dear reader. This is caused by the fact that there is some confusion, on the internet and elsewhere, regarding the factual data concerning "Bhakti" - the movie. Moreover, there seem to be all kinds of clips, versions and fragments going around, under various names and labels. I can only hope that I'm not being misled, and, consequently, that I'm not misleading you. So, "caveat emptor", "due diligence" and all that...
Unless I'm mistaken (see paragraph above), this is the movie based on the ballet created by choreographer Maurice Béjart. Béjart took a lively interest in foreign contries and cultures, and here we've got an exploration of the Hindu concept of "bhakti", loving devotion, as one of the paths towards the Divine. In the movie, Béjart plays with opposites : East against West, Benares against Brussels, materialism against ascetism, activity against contemplation, human love against divine love, fidelity against frivolity, and so on. Even the language of the movie is dual : on the one hand, you get a more or less documentary approach to real-life sights and scenes, on the other hand you get a filmed ballet performance, with the ballet performance taking place on a theatre stage somewhere.
The ballet, set to traditional Indian music, is centered around some of the most famous couples of lovers from Indian mythology. It's an unusual, intriguing ballet which explores ideas such as the union between a man and a woman as both an expression of, and a gateway to, the union between a human being and his God - or gods. The performance is riveting, showcasing the talents (and star quality) of some of Béjarts favourite dancers. The music, dance and choreography go well with the costumes and the general "look", resulting in an immersive viewing experience.
(I need to add, here, that not everybody was enamoured of Béjarts ballet. On the contrary : critics including adepts of classical Indian dance and Hindu faithful accused him of pilfering and debasing their traditions.)
So far for the ballet part. The movie also contains scenes and images from everyday life (or recreations thereof) and these parts are far less successful. Much of it is pushed down our throats as if we were poor geese to be force-fed : look at the sad state of the West, where people are fat, where money is everything and where love and ecstasy have fled ! Boo for the soulless materialism, the demented stress, the empty consumerism ! Boo for the passionless sex ! Compare that to the noble land of India, where every citizen between the ages of 7 and 77 is, by definition, leading a deeply spiritual life...
My personal conclusion : Mr. Béjart may have been greatly talented as a choreographer, but as a philosopher and social critic he had all the subtle nuance of a sledgehammer.
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