We went out to see "The Namesake" on Saturday night. A good movie, well worth seeing. It’s the story of a Bengali couple, married by family arrangement, who move to the United States and bring up their own family, a son and a daughter, maintaining their own rich cultural traditions in the context of American society.
It’s a film, as I saw it, in good part about civility. The relationship between man and wife starts out having nothing to do with romantic love, or the reasons for which we in the West choose to get married. It’s characterized by civility and restraint, by mutual tolerance—even of mistakes—and a respect of each others’ inner privacy. We watch it grow into a deep and abiding love—and one which allows for the growth of an intimacy eventually far richer than the intimacy of spilling every secret of the heart and soul or of leaping into bed at the first opportunity.
Here in the West, we tend to blunder mindlessly across each other’s boundaries under the pretext of affection; our getting to know each other can look like an aggressive takeover, a mutual invasion. We want to know everything, reveal everything. The relationship in this film allows each partner the respect of a distance that might seem cool, uncaring, lacking in passion to the Western mind. There is a politeness, a civility that fosters the core self of each, creating a strong individuality and bringing with it the rewards of slow revelation and deepening understanding—this in the context of a sense of social obligation that transcends the fulfillment of those immediate--and often trivial--personal “needs” that seem so urgently important to us.
For a quiet, unhurried and moving investigation of universal issues like marriage and family, the search for happiness, and the ineluctable processes of aging and death, this is a rewarding little gem of a movie, and one that offers us the glimpse of life viewed from a very different point of view.