The debut feature of Hackney newcomer Asif Kapadia is an intimate epic based on a Japanese folk tale, in which an Indian warrior has a crisis of conscience, renounces violence and seeks redemption.
It's a stunningly visual film with the timeless quality of a morality tale, and despite some story weakness and questionable character motivation (the warrior's rejection of the old life is contrived), the strong visual canvas, intense performances, and soaring score make the film seem more compelling than it is - and that's to the director's credit.
Lafcadia, the unidentified warrior of the title (a mesmerising Irfan Khan), spends his days beheading and pillaging, duties performed in service to a heartless Master of the Rajput people (Shyam), who orders his warriors to kill those who fail to pay their taxes.
Lafcadia's son Katiba (Chibber) hopes to follow in his father's warrior footsteps, inheriting his grandfather's sword, but Lafcadia has a vision of a girl from his childhood town, inspiring him to take a soul-searching journey homewards.
He risks death, absconding from the master, but not before his own son is killed in revenge, and his colleagues follow in sword-bearing pursuit. The infanticide paralyses him, but on his journey Lafcadia meets an escaped slave called Riaz (Mani) whose family was killed by a warrior, thereby laying the path towards his own salvation.
Although the plot is over-simplistic, Kapadia sucks us into his exotic world using cinematic magic, so we forgive the film its languid (and often indulgent) pace. The story is image-heavy with so little dialogue that occasionally it's hard to follow (blink and you miss the significance of Lafcadia's vision), but it's a pleasure to wander vicariously in the scorching deserts of Rajasthan and the hills of the Himalayas.
Kapadia's talent makes him a director to watch.
In Hindi with English subtitles.