Crime featured

Human Nature on a Rampage: A TIFF Review of ‘Jallikattu’

September 20, 2019Nick Armstrong

Upon hearing the premise of Lijo Jose Pellissery's Jallikattu — that a buffalo is set loose in a small village, setting off a chain of violent events — you may think you have the whole film figured out. You may prepare yourself to witness a series of deadly buffalo attacks that result in countless human casualties, but Pellissery subverts expectations, instead putting a magnifying glass to patriarchal human behavior in the wake of losing control of one's environment.

In actuality, the violence that is caused by this wild buffalo's accidental release is in no way attributable to the buffalo itself. On the contrary, the mere fact that this helpless animal is alive at all is what causes the entire village to break out into mass hysteria, causing so many of its citizens to fight one another in an attempt to kill this animal and use it for monetary gain. Expertly crafting and building the movie's tense momentum, Pellissery is able to show — on a microcosmic level — the dangers of placing humans at the top of a hierarchy, above species that can destroy everything they know in 90-some-odd heart-stopping minutes.

The film's greatest accomplishment, however, is the way it thoughtfully portrays the bull as defenseless. Because when we frame the "monster" in an ostensible monster movie as something that only acts as a result of its environment, it reshapes our very definition of monstrous behavior. Ultimately, in its final moment, Jallikattu finally gives viewers a chance to catch their breath, making this observation inescapable. But at that point, you may wonder if we deserve that last breath at all.

Jallikattu makes its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 31 min.

You May Also Like