Frozen is a difficult film. First, it was staggeringly difficult to make. Frozen was entirely shot 12,000 feet above sea level, in Ladakh. Debutant director Shivajee Chandrabhushan and his crew braved temperatures of -5 to -30 degrees to bring alive this story of a villager Karma, played by Danny Dengzongpa and his daughter Lasya, played by Gauri.
Karma, Lasya and her younger brother Chomo struggle against the unforgiving landscape. Their harsh but peaceful way of life is slowly pulverized by progress. The army sets base close to their home. Karma's hand-made jams can no longer compete with factory-produced goods.
And the family slowly sinks under a mountainous debt with rapacious money-lenders closing in for the kill. Lasya negotiates the landscape and her aggressors with a fierce unrelenting will. Despite the circumstances, she endures.
Frozen isn't an easy watch either. The film is a testament to Shivajee's two passions--mountaineering and photography--and to his immense talent. Shot in black and white, Frozen is visually stunning. Each frame is exquisitely composed. But Frozen is also staggeringly still.
In long stretches, the narrative itself seems frozen. Shivajee isn't so much telling a story as creating textures and moods of a landscape that is hostile but it's also home. The voice-over device is only intermittently successful. The film is deliberately arty but not always engaging. Danny Dengzongpa brings a quiet grace to his role as the stoically struggling villager. But Frozen belongs to Gauri. Her agile, expressive face is as haunting as the mountains around her.
How much you enjoy Frozen depends on what you look for in the movies. There are no push-button emotions or instant gratification here. It's slow, at times excruciatingly so, and curiously inert. But it's also overwhelmingly beautiful. Frozen is an acquired taste. You will either savor its stillness or be left, forgive the pun, absolutely cold.