If ever there was a film which produced mixed feelings, it is MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, the film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s prize- winning novel of the same name.
At its core this is a tried and true theme of babies, both boys, born at the same time at the same hospital, being swapped, the film focusing on the life of the child born of poor circumstances who is then brought up by an affluent family, a life meant for the other child. What complicates this theme and both dilutes and enriches it, is that the births of the babies occur at the very moment [at midnight] of the declaration of independence of India and Pakistan, and the momentous later events in the histories of these countries are interspersed with the later events in the lives of the two children.
In addition, throughout the film, and central to it, is magic, in the form of the ability of the main character to conjure up, at will, other children born when he was [hence the film’s title],who all have “powers”, including in the case of one, the power to make people invisible.
Bearing in mind the film lasts about two and a half hours, the inevitable result of this exotic mix is,unfortunately, a film-goer’s confusion and a lack of involvement with the characters.
Nevertheless it must be said that the acting is superb, the concept is epic, the colour and vitality of life in the subcontinent is perfectly captured, and there are a number of truly memorable moments in the film.
Perhaps the best way of summing up the film is this: for its entire length it holds your interest and it is enjoyable to watch, but, at its end, you are left wondering why that was so.
MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN is screening as part of this year’s Sydney Film Festival.