Sanjeewa Pushpakumara

Film Director
Sri Lanka

Voted for

Mirror1975Andrei Tarkovsky
Cries and Whispers1972Ingmar Bergman
Au hasard Balthazar1966Robert Bresson
L'avventura1960Michelangelo Antonioni
Pather Panchali1955Satyajit Ray
Tokyo Story1953Yasujirō Ozu
Vertigo1958Alfred Hitchcock
Where Is the Friend's House?1987Abbas Kiarostami
The Godfather1972Francis Ford Coppola
Drive My Car2021Ryusuke Hamaguchi



1975 USSR

Andrei Tarkovsky’s unconventional narrative about the mother-son relationship goes beyond the traditional way of thinking of narrative construction. The film creates a never-seen experience of the visual world with surrealistic images of fire, water, wind, air, and earth. Silence is also a huge part of the soundscape. Intermingling poems, paintings, and classical music from J.S. Bach and others reveals the depth of the story, which does not proceed chronologically. In some of the scenes, character blocking or placement provides a sense of sculptural art. It often moves back and forth between the past and the present, and dream and reality, in a seamless process with colour changing to sepia or black and white. Tarkovsky provides us with a canvas of moving images. In that canvas, everyone can to find out at least one thing which connects directly or indirectly with themselves.

Cries and Whispers

1972 Sweden

Meticulously written and directed, ‘Cries and Whispers’ deals with innermost and interpersonal conflicts between three sisters, Agnes (she is dying from uterine cancer), Maria, Karim, and their maid Anna ( Anna is suffering from the loss of her younger daughter). By doing so the film explores deep human secrets through the pain and memories of isolation and refusal of the present and past. This film is a canvas where we can meet our own human complexity.

Red and white are the colour motifs in the film. Nevertheless, the red colour dominates the film. For Bergman red is the interior of the human soul. One can also consider red as a metaphor for human pain and suffering whilst white is a metaphor for peace and comfort. Also, some Christian religious values (Anna symbolizes the Virgin Mary, Agnes’s pain symbolizes Jesus Christ’s pain at his crucifixion) can be found in the narrative. The important thing is that none of them are represented in direct religious form. Like in Bergman’s other films the watch also stands as an important visual motif in the narrative of ‘Cries and Whispers’.

Au hasard Balthazar

1966 France, Sweden

‘Au Hasard Balthazar’ is a transcendental film. Robert Bresson used realism and a kind of absurd visual presentation of composition (showing only a fragment of the object / close-ups of hands and legs). This narrative style gives a unique voice to the film. He uses the donkey as a character in the film as a visual metaphor for certain Christian religious values. Throughout the film, we witness the cruel and violent minds of human beings. The film also shows us love and sacrifice in a very subtle way. The use of sound ( “L” sound and “ J” sound ) is a great characteristic of the film. Sometimes Bresson lets us hear (the “J” sound) first without showing events. Later we see the effect of the event. One of the prime examples is a car accident. In that scene, we hear the sound of the accident first, and then we see the car being thrown off the road which is the effect.


1960 Italy, France

‘L’Avventura’ explores some of the eternal questions of human existence through wealthy upper-class Italian society through a very subtle and mature way of filmmaking. Absence, desire, lust, emptiness, and jealousy are the major themes of the film. After the sudden disappearance of Anna, her friend Claudia continuously searches for her while others are not serious about Anna’s disappearance. Also, Claudia keeps rejecting Anna’s boyfriend Sandro’s request to be his fiancé, based on her friendship with Anna. We can see this refusal and continuous search by Claudia as her moral obligation to their friendship.

The style of ‘L’Avventura’ is groundbreaking. Positioning characters in large landscapes or aside huge building spaces is a powerful characteristic of the narrative. Especially using short focal lenses and composing loose frames allows Antonioni to create human characters as relatively tiny objects against the space where they are being placed.

It uses objects such as the ocean, buildings, rocks, mountains etc to elevate the meaning of the story. Most of the time these inanimate objects help create suspense and curiosity along with the silence and the soundscape of nature.

Pather Panchali

1955 India

‘Pather Panchali’ portrays poverty, childhood, human relationships (such as the sister-brother relationship of Durga and Apu), human pain and joy, and nature (rain, wood) in the utmost sincere and honest way of filmmaking. The eye of cinematographer Subrata Mitra elevates the film into an eternal visual poem. The visual composition and narrative evolution of ‘Pather Panchali’ are never old. The main subject matter, the poverty that Ray spoke about in 1955 in ‘Pather Panchali’, is the biggest practical problem in the entire South Asian region even today.

Tokyo Story

1953 Japan

The narrative in both form (story) and style (structure) is very simple yet very deep. The film depicts how it is hard to maintain human relationships without hurting each other directly or indirectly. The most important is when parents lose the care and pleasure of their own children; ironically, at the same time in the same city, another one (widowed daughter-in-law Noriko) is there to give full care and pleasure. It’s also interesting to witness how absence and presence are simultaneously depicted in one narrative.

The style of ‘Tokyo Story’ is extremely unique. Both human characters and inanimate objects (ocean, trees, buildings, city landscapes, houses, empty spaces, smoking factory chimneys, etc) play equally important roles in the narrative. Ozu uses inanimate objects to express the feelings of the characters whilst also using them to maintain the mood and rhythm of the film.

Most camera angles are low or level resembling the Japanese way of looking at things (tatami mat) whilst more than 90% percent of the shots are static and in tableau form. Only a few track shots and high-angle shots are used in the film.


1958 USA

‘Vertigo’ is a meticulously written and directed psychological crime drama about retired police detective Scottie Ferguson and his relationship with Madeleine Elster or Judy Barton. Suspense, surprise and curiosity are at their peak in the narrative. There is no shot or word in the narrative which does not add meaning to the story.

The film uses parallel and dolly-zoom filming, and colour techniques unique to the story. Love and obsession, presence and absence, love and betrayal, and eternal human ignorance are the main themes of the film. 

Where Is the Friend's House?

1987 Iran

‘Where is the friend’s house?’ blurs the parameters of fiction and documentary. The narrative follows an 8-year-old boy, Ahmad, and his lonely journey to a neighbouring village, to return a notebook that belongs to one of his classmates. It is a homework book that Ahmad has taken home by accident. The film ironically reveals the moral obligation that a child’s world teaches adults, who do not listen to them and reject them because of their age. Ahmad’s journey is a tapestry that reveals the poverty and hardship of rural people in Iran while showing the beauty of the landscape. Composition and framing show some patterns and shapes such as diagonal lines and triangles of the landscape.

The Godfather

1972 USA

Family, power, greed, violence, crime, and revenge are the main themes of ‘The Godfather. The film explores the American power game through underworld families and their conflicts. The actors’ performances are very realistic and powerful, especially Marlon Brando (as Vito Corleone) and Al Pacino (as Michael Corleone), who are both unforgettable. Both used method acting. Under Coppola’s great direction the whole cast gave their attention even to minor details of their body expressions.

Gordon Willis as the cinematographer of the film has composed each shot very meticulously. The camera has not been used to create the drama; instead, the camera has captured the drama which unfolded in front of the camera. Willis frequently used the chiaroscuro lighting method to create interior scenes (the opening scene and the meeting of the five mafia families). By doing so he enhances the terror, bleakness, and entire mood of the film.

Drive My Car

2021 Japan

‘Drive My Car’ combines several genres such as drama, melodrama, road movie, and mystery. The film is based on the Haruki Murakami’s short stories ‘Drive My Car' and ‘Scheherazade’. The film also uses Anton Chekhov’s play ‘Uncle Vanya’ as an intertextual source throughout the narrative.

The film takes its audience from the present into the past to unearth the painfully buried stories of the main protagonists Yusuke Kafuke and his chauffeur Misaki Watari. All of these memories of Kafuku and Misaki Watari are long-term or declarative memories.