All That Breathes
Can the birds’ behaviour be the symptom of a society that has lost the bond with nature? It is exactly what Shaunak Sen’s film shows, in a Delhi dominated by garbage and traffic, through the work of two brothers who rescue sick wild birds falling from the sky, mainly kites. If this healing job is possible only through their passionate dedication and the solidarity of an entire community around them, the discriminatory law against Muslims recently introduced in India will make the brothers’ work almost impossible. The birds that so become at risk of not being cured anymore will then become also the symptom of a society that has lost the bond with itself, with its humanity.
As positive counterbalance to this environmental and social sickness, All That Breathes is able to show how nature is not only the antagonist of urbanity, but is completely intertwined with such. Nature and urbanity are both porous membranes that affect one another, in an osmosis that transforms the both of them, for better or for worse. The calm and the tenderness that breathes through the brothers’ work perfectly expresses this “solidarity of the living”, which become a sort of monumental resistance against any segregational force.
Shaunak Sen has effectively imported this calm and tenderness into the form of the film: the slow movement of the camera and a smooth editing plunge us into an almost cosmic perspective where humans and animals substantively share the same space-time. It is rare to experience this perspective on the big screen in such a convincing way. An important contribution to this precious experience comes from the astonishing camera work, whose exceptional images cannot but be the result of a passionate and long-term observation. All That Breathes flawlessly exemplifies how a film can make a strong claim against violence without using violence, but using the force of beauty and humanity.
Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
First published: October 04, 2022
All That Breathes | Film | Shaunak Sen | IND-UK 2022 | 94’ | Zurich Film Festival 2022