Elena Viklova’s Dictionary is a brief, diagrammatic account of a relationship viewed as a progression through the seven stages of love, a Sufi concept. The protagonist, an unnamed everywoman, narrates her journey with a partner from attraction, attachment, love, reverence, worship, madness and finally, death.
The partner in question is never shown on screen, the meaning is clear: this is not about them. The film is solely about overlaying a spiritual framework on common female experiences with romance. The plot is paper-thin. Instead, the narrative functions like a theatrical monologue, delivered in voiceover. Portrayed and voiced by Aishwarya Sonar, the character is largely wordless on-screen except for a single line, delivered during the love stage of her romance. Brimming with the giddy euphoria of being in love, she turns to look directly at the camera (then doubling as the partner’s personal camera, recording a home video) and admits to the depth of her feelings. The image is an identifiable one.
Though the cinematography offers minimal complexity, the costume and production design add interest. The attraction stage is set in a garden party, all light, green and pink: the beginnings of a blossom. Attachment is overwhelmingly red. Love is domestic, designed in vivid blossoms, deep green, and lit with the halcyon glow of the streaming sun. Madness sees the woman framed against a backdrop of flaming orange. Death, per many Asian customs, is white. The visuals serve to improve upon the writing. The latter generally suffers from its overly simple, generic style and content, perhaps made so in a bid to appeal to the broadest possible audience.
Dictionary’s attempts boil down to a showcase of the love lives of young women better than it demonstrates the Sufi conception of love. It is best watched for its use of colour, light, and costume.
Watch Dictionary Short Film Trailer
Dictionary: Graphing Love in Seven Stages