Recently, two screenings of the film , art=(love)2 were held in Karachi at The Second Floor (T2F) and at the Alliance Française. The film received a well-deserved favourable response from the audience at both screenings.
Watch trailer here.
A flurry of colours and images, art=(love)2 is a whirlwind story of love, death and closure set against the backdrop of New York City’s skyline. Written (with co-writer Monica Mehta) and directed by Mumtaz Hussain, the film narrates the story of Dean (Nate Dushku) and Isabella (Lindsey Goranson), a most unlikely couple, as the former is a talented artist while the latter is an immensely intelligent mathematics student at Columbia University.
Dean and Isabella have a happy life together: a nice, spacious residence in the city that is full of quirks that is embodied in their respective personalities. Dean’s art studio – full of canvases, his works, painting equipment – is situated in the basement of their house. Upstairs, Isabella has a little corner of her own in the furthest corner of their bedroom, consisting of a large desk with a laptop and bits of papers, as well as other odds and ends on it. This is where she works while at home on solving complex mathematical theorems. Their relationship, by the virtue of their respective professions and talents, is unlikely and seems rather incompatible at first. But it’s not. One discovers that in the first few minutes of the film. In fact, their relationship is not just a relationship between a man and a woman from two wholly different professions. It symbolises the coming together of two souls with opposing talents and the grey areas in between mathematics and art. This forms the basic premise of the film.
The film begins with a disconsolate Dean listening to the messages on his answering machine. Isabella is dead and he has barely washed, cleaned or done anything productive ever since he received the news. It is as if he had died with her. He is only roused from his stupor when he hears the voice of his and Isabella’s mutual friend Suzanna (Darby Lynn Totten) on the answering machine, inquiring if he’s okay. Simultaneously, she is at his front door, ringing the bell but Dean doesn’t open the door.
As the story develops, it is discovered that Isabella had died in inexplicable circumstances. No one knows what had happened the night she died. The police deduce that she committed suicide and close the case. Suzanna and everybody else maintain that the police was correct in concluding that Isabella killed herself. Dean, however, refuses to accept that. Although Dean was initially devoid of a single iota of inspiration to paint, he begins to paint quite soon, using his art as a way of releasing his pent-up emotions and his pain at losing Isabella.
The results of his impassioned paintings are indeed a sight to behold. Dean soon begins to see a certain pattern, a message in his painting, eventually concluding that Isabella is speaking to him through his paintings. So he seeks Suzanna’s assistance in deciphering the message that lies hidden in his paintings, which become increasingly tangible as buildings and other well-known features of NYC’s landscape and skyline become an increasingly tangible presence in his paintings. Unable to assist him, she refers him to a psychiatrist who she believes would help him decipher the message he is seeing in his works. It later turns out that Isabella had been seeing the same psychiatrist for her manic-depressive disorder (also known as bipolar disorder). Dean is shocked and aggressively demands to know details from both Suzanna and the psychiatrist (who refuses to divulge any details due to patient-doctor confidentiality) but in vain. Not only Dean, but the viewer is surprised to discover this too. Evidently, this was why the police, Suzanna and everyone else gave up and accepted Isabella’s death as suicide. But obviously, Dean knew a completely different side of her, hence his refusal to accept her death as an act of suicide.
One day he finds Isabella’s notebook that contains her solution to the complex mathematical equation she had been attempting to solve shortly before her death. It is implied that she had solved it successfully shortly before her death. Dean then visits her department at Columbia, where he discovers that about two days after Isabella’s death, a man called Alexander York (Daniel Dugan) – Isabella’s colleague and friend who had been working on the same equation with her – had successfully solved the same equation that Isabella had been working on shortly before her death. It is at this point that one starts to perceive the connection between her rather obsessive pursuit of a solution to that mathematical equation and her mental state. Dean, knowing that he was close to solving the mystery of Isabella’s death, pursues Alexander and soon manages to discover the real truth of what actually happened on the night Isabella died.
This connection between maths and art – the main theme of the film – is one of the most fascinating topics to have been discussed in film. It signifies the spiritual connection between the two distinct subjects of maths and art and Dean and Isabella’s relationship. It is also reflected in Dean’s paintings, his perception, as well as Isabella’s rather philosophical musings about art. Also, Dean draws grids on the canvas before starting a painting. Drawing a grid helps to keep the composition of a painting organised and orderly, said Hussain at the T2F screening of the film. Hussain was taught this aspect by the renowned artist, the late Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq.
The characterisation of the two protagonists is closely intertwined with their chosen professions and talents. When Dean paints, one can perceive his oblivion to the rest of the world, the kind that can be seen in all true artists, scientists, writers and thinkers. Similarly, in one scene, Isabella is shown to be sitting at a table in a café, scribbling furiously in her notebook, completely oblivious to the world, considerably agitated. One can see how she trembles and her hands shake as she writes, indicating her frustration at not being able to arrive at a solution. Their evident passion, when one sees them working at their respective occupations, is immensely realistic and well-expressed.
It may seem at first that the film is a just another love story, mixed with a murder mystery but it is far more than that. In fact, it is actually a unique story that exceeds one’s expectations. The script is well-written in the sense that there is so much focus on the relationship of the genius artist and the genius mathematician. The actors, Dushku and Goranson, have done an amazing job at their respective characters. So have the supporting cast with Totten topping the list as Suzanna. The cinematography is amazing and the art direction stunning. Dean’s paintings (painted by Hussain himself) are one of the best artworks I have ever seen, with its colourful and bold brush strokes. The colours in the opening and closing credits are mesmerising and successfully capture one’s interest right from the start.
A graduate of the National College of Arts (NCA) Lahore, Hussain travelled to London to study European arts forms and then to Paris where he worked in an art gallery. Later, he went to New York where he successfully established himself as an artist. He also did several courses in various aspects of filmmaking and has, since then, directed several short films with art=(love)2 being his first feature-length film.