By: Amanda Guarragi
My Hindu Friend is based off of Hector Babaenco’s final year of his life. He has directed many features and is a well known Brazilian filmmaker. The film is a deeply personal story about Diego (Willem Dafoe) who is diagnosed with cancer and is in need of a bone marrow transplant. In order to stay alive, the doctors find a young Hindu boy, to do a blood transfusion and that is the friendship that flourishes. Diego tells the young boy, possible ideas for films that he would like to make, as he passes the time with him in the hospital.
The film is a bit obscure and doesn’t quite capture the essence of what the title implies. It is Diego’s journey as he tries to survive this illness, while balancing a relationship with his wife and somehow rediscovering his sexuality through all of this. The story was the only thing that was troubling about this film because it just took away from the pure connection between Diego and the young boy. It was overtly sexual and took away from the actual penpal connection. It’s understandable that it is the final year of Diego’s life and Babenco attempted to cover it as intricately as possible but there were too many things on the table.
As Diego went through his treatment in the hospital, he was also visited by this “businessman” who was there to collect him and bring him to heaven. Those scenes exchanged were quite interesting because of the analogies used to explain purgatory and death. One of the best scenes in this film was when Diego took out the breathing tube in the middle of the night and started singing “I’m in Heaven”. There was a spotlight on him and he was placed in front of a blank wall, that faded to black. It was eerie and effective, considering the fact that the audience would have no idea if Diego would survive.
Willem Dafoe gives a fantastic performance as he always does but it wasn’t enough to make me appreciate what Babenco was trying to do with this film. There were some beautiful scenes that had great lighting and a strong score to carry them out. Babenco also captured the beauty of women in this film quite nicely, as their bodies were seen as moving pieces of art at times. It can also be argued that they were pieces on Diego’s journey of sexual rebirth. It’s a very challenging film because of how Diego struggles with coming to terms of giving a second chance after a near death experience.
My Hindu Friend has plenty of layers to dive into but the most important connection gets lost among the excessive narcissism and selfishness of it’s lead Diego. There were soft moments with the young Hindu boy but there was no established connection to warrant that kind of emotional pull to the relationship. It has very strong visuals and a great performance by Willem Dafoe that carries the story to the very end.