Image source: Film poster / ©elliot, All rights reserved
Two women in search of meaning in Calcutta
The emotional odyssey of Kavita and the unwavering struggle of Mother Teresa combine in an organic way to create an impressive film experience. Not least, through the poetic imagery.
Two women live in two cities and in two different times, and yet an imaginary thread connects them. The film "Mother Teresa & Me" achieves this feat in a remarkably smooth way and through a poetic visual language. One woman is Mother Teresa. World-renowned nun, tireless fighter for the poor, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The second woman is Kavita. She is a violinist, somewhere in her mid-twenties, living in London and has just been ghosted by her boyfriend because she is pregnant and he can't handle it. In order to realize what to do next, Kavita travels to her roots in Calcutta.
Mother Teresa's story takes place in an important period between 1946 and 1991, Kavita's story takes place in the present. Both are in an existential crisis. Mother Teresa built infrastructures for the poor during that phase, but also lost her faith because of the bad things she saw on the streets. This only became known posthumously when personal letters became public. Kavita, on the other hand, as a young woman in modern London, has the ground literally pulled out from under her feet by her unexpected pregnancy.
Both Teresa and Kavita struggle with the situation, but do not take the easy way out. This unites the women for the first time early in the film. One follows Mother Teresa's self-sacrificing struggle for the people and against suffering on the streets of Calcutta, as one later follows Kavita in those same streets as she makes her important life decision. The two women - though separated by decades - are not so different.
Separated by decades,
yet not so far apart
The young Kavita is played by Banita Sandhu. She was born in London, but has Indian roots. She fits the role perfectly and is literally absorbed in the portrayal of the violinist who is faced with an immensely important decision. Mother Teresa is portrayed by Swiss actress Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz in a very authentic and self-sacrificing way. Fritschi-Cornaz is not only an actress with over 30 years of professional experience, she started the film project after a trip to India and was actively involved in its development. Fittingly, the film is a non-profit project and all proceeds go to institutions to provide education and health care to poor, disabled or orphaned children in India. To this end, the film was funded entirely through donations. This was organized through the Zaryia Foundation, which was also founded by Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz. The goal of the film and the project is to carry on the thought and the vision of Mother Teresa.
Wonderful and poetic images
The figure of Kavita, on the other hand, is probably drawn deliberately blurred at the beginning. She seems like millions of other women in big cities all over the world and only develops a profile over time. Like a butterfly, she blossoms during her trip to India. At the hospice in India, she is asked, "Are you here to save people or just yourself?" At first, Kavita
is downright surprised, because the question gets to the heart of many things that are in limbo.
In addition to the strength of the content or direction, it is the poetic images of India and the harsh shots of cruel realities of life in poverty that elegantly blend into a harmonious whole. The fact that the film manages to captivate in a very short time is due to such artfully crafted shots. The ingenious visual language is impressive. When snow falls in the nocturnal streets of London and illuminates the darkness, it ultimately works perfectly as a contrast to the life of Mother Teresa in the convent of 1946. The sister once went to Calcutta to help the poor. The images of Teresa are done in heavy black and white with a touch of sepia and look like a historical document of the time. The poverty in the slums is captured in quiet images, adding to the intensity. The Calcutta that Kavita encounters is colorful and lively. The poetically composed images are not coincidental at any moment, but reinforce the story and thus harmoniously round off the film's enjoyment.
The film, which is well worth seeing, was directed by the award-winning Swiss-Indian director Kamal Musale, who studied film direction and screenwriting at the National Film and Television School in England. He was preoccupied with the question of what drives a woman who has lost her faith. Especially because Teresa kept the loss of her faith meticulously secret, but never gave up the fight for the poorest. But how do you bring two such different women together on a narrative level? Musale says in the press kit, "To give Teresa relevance in today's world, I decided to place her life story in a contemporary context and have her rediscovered by a modern young woman, a woman who lives in today's western society and embodies the search for meaning for a younger generation. That's how the character of Kavita was born."
The big themes in the film are personal faith and the still controversial issue of abortion. The sensitive handling of these topics is one of the film's great strengths. In no second does "Mother Teresa & Me" try to take sides or even proselytize. On the contrary. Especially when it comes to the topic of abortion, different points of view flow in through natural dialogues, and one should think about it for oneself. It is similar with the topic of faith. At no time does the film try to put Mother Teresa on a pedestal because of her faith, but tells rationally about a woman who sacrifices herself completely to bring about something good. Thus, Teresa never differentiates between faiths and, of course, helps men who wanted to fight her because of their religion. In the end, faith plays no role in dying.