A truce between fiction and fact | Daily News

A truce between fiction and fact

I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. – The Gospel of St. Mathew

According to Matthew, one of the direct paths to enter hell is to commit adultery. Chandran Rutnam’s new film, According to Matthew, revolves around a couple who commits adultery and descends to hell as it happened two decades ago in Sri Lanka in a church. Ironically, one of the accused was an Anglican priest.

The gloominess of which the four main characters are portrayed makes the film unique. The discipline of its director to confine himself strictly to the events and let the characters act their parts is distinct. It was a double murder that shook the nation in 1979. The accused were well-educated, accepted persons in society, especially the main accused, Rev. father Matthew Pieris. The film rarely shows its director’s views over facts.

Mind: source of evil

It is mind that destructs soul. It is the mind, too, that enlightens the soul. On the other hand, evil never ends and the battle against it in the mind ever weakens. It batters even a person who is near the altar of the God all of his time. However, Chandran Rutnam does not manipulate his film to express the power of evil over good. Nor does he attempts to alter the facts to illuminate or obscure a religion.

One may, therefore, view the film as an attempt to recall events that led to a double murder and nothing else. It has marginally gone beyond the facts. It is not, therefore, altogether a fiction. One may even classify that it is inartistic and that it shows the events that led to a horrific double murder.

Cinematic disciplinary

But the strict cinematic disciplinary in Rutnam makes his film sublime and glues the audience to the screen. He does not exaggerate anything to make it a commercial success. Even the erotic scenes have no lewdness. He takes only what he needs from where he could have gone deep to rouse his audience to another spectrum. So, his masterly filmmaking lies in his cinematic discipline.

Father Mathew Pieris killed Russel Ingram, his lover’s husband and his wife Eunice Pieris in 1979. He was the chief priest of the Anglican Church, St Paul the Apostle, Kynsey Road Colombo 10. Russel Ingram came to the vicarage along with his wife Daphne Reynolds seeking God’s salvation but father Pieris helped Russel in finding a job. He even appointed Russel’s wife as his secretary and took her to his possession with devil’s intention.

They were convicted for double murder and sentenced to death. But Daphne was acquitted in the subsequent appeal. Rev. Pieris was granted presidential pardon for his good conduct in the prison after many years. This last part is not in the film. Rutnam has taken only what he needs for the film. It lacks even the court drama except little bits of the hearing unlike in the book authored by Prof. Ravindra Fernando, Murders at the Vicarage, where the full court case unfolds.

Alston Koch stars as father Mathew Pieris. He hails from Sri Lanka and lives in Australia as an actor, song writer, film producer and record producer. He has portrayed his role effectively while Jacqueline Fernandez, also born in Sri Lanka and now a famous actress in Bollywood, infuses life into Daphne Reynolds. She also portrays her role convincingly. Bimsara Premaratna portrays father Matthew’s wife, Eunice Pieris, while Kian O’Grady stars Daphne’s husband.

Father Matthew Pieris was complex. He committed heinous crimes and attempted to make it divine in ways he behaved after those crimes. He even told the court that no one could judge him but the God.

Genuine attempt

The film is a genuine attempt to revive the events that led to a gruesome double murder in Sri Lanka for the young generation. It simply revolves around the facts and hardly touches magic in films. But there lies the expertise of the film director Chandram Rutnam, who has made many a blockbuster film.

Now, whisper according to Matthew, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?”


 

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