This Summer in Waiting (India, 2019)

During a hot summer in Kolkata, a young man (Raja Chakravorty) and a young woman carrying a violin (Prakriti Dutta Mukherjee) meet by chance at a bus stop. They are complete strangers, but something compels them towards each other. Soon, they leave the bus stop and explore the city around them: busy streets, abandoned buildings, and overhead bridges. They go into an old music shop to swap the violin for a cello. Very quickly, a relationship is forged. Eventually they end up in a strange desert-like landscape where the young woman sits on a lonely chair and plays the cello.

There isn’t much plot in Soumya Mukhopadhyay’s experimental short film, This Summer in Waiting, a slow and meditative examination of a young couple’s summer in the city of Kolkata. On the surface, it is an extremely simple and minimalist film – it contains no dialogue or text, the camera hardly moves, and there’s only a handful of scenes to speak of in the film’s 15-minute runtime. Instead, it’s still shots that tell the story. There’s movement, but most of it is contained to the background, in the busy rumble of the city. As the young man and woman sit at the bus stop, the city lives a full life of its own, of which we only get a glimpse. It’s perhaps messy and unruly, but very much alive. The same continues as the couple goes through the city park, the train station, or the old neighborhood where they purchase a new instrument. The shots are still, but in their rich composition the director captures the spirit of the city.

I was particularly struck by the film’s rich soundscape that was constantly looming in the background. While the film starts with long shots of the bus stop, where we are not at all certain what is going on, the sound design remains vibrant and dynamic, breathing life into an otherwise static picture. At the end, we get to hear the young woman play her cello as the image dissolves into a surrealist tableau. The end is puzzling and not easy to deconstruct, except for its tone of melancholy as it signals the end of summer. The woman’s beautiful song underscores just the same thing.

This Summer in Waiting defies a solid interpretation. It’s a short experimental film in which anyone may see something entirely different. Or see nothing at all. But even as a simple cinematic exercise, which may very well be, it is a fascinating and mesmerizing snapshot of urban life.