by Jaime Grijalba.
(Thailand, 20 min)
A spark of light in the darkness, flying up and up to finally dissapear. The sound of the wildlife forest-like inner cities of Thailand: birds, bugs, wind and trees whispering to each other. A man walking his dog in the same landscape, visiting the house of a relative, sorrounded by chickens and farm implements. A group of friends wait outside the big door entrance of a big house, with boxes and coolers, waiting for having a good moment immersed in the sorrounding wilderness, and as they enter, a young girl on a pink bike looks at them, as if she knew who they were. A father and son riding a motorbike pass through, enjoying the sun and the wind and all the smells of the jungley landscape. Memories from another person, memories that feel, nevertheless, familiar to us viewers from all over the world. Personal highlights from someone’s personal every day life, that feel universal and appealing to any one of us. Some short films have certain power inside them to entice the viewer into something universal and deeper about human nature, even more than feature films most of the time, but why is it that a form that is so appealing to most people is so ignored whenever there are film studies, reviews, top 10-100 lists on various subjects, that they are ignored and not taken as real cinematic experiences as they should be? Here comes this short film to take that premise and turn it to dust, it is the closest thing to pure cinema released this year: filmed with film stock in a new kind of camera, Weerasethakul manages to tell us that cinema isn’t dead, that film is alive, that anyone has a story and a film inside of them, and that sometimes images can be foreign and at the same time familiar, close, warm, even if they are seen through the lense of a camera.
As I write this piece for Wonders in the Dark, one of (not that) many that I’ve written in the past few months, I’m in the process of editing my own short film. The second that I’ve done in the same class, because I failed the first time, but with a completely different point of view, story and production process overall. As the clips load on Avid I wonder if this time I will pass, I wonder if people will like this and if I’ll be able to show this without any shame or something similar happening to my mind as I see the clips, the dialogue, the actors, the characters develop one after the other. The same questions may have gone through the mind of Apichatpong as Mubi.com and Lomokino asked him to test out their camera model by financing and producing a short film with total liberty, that managed to be a comment on film itself and on the product at the same time, and it’s also one of the greatest commercials for the device itself that could ever be imagined: a digital sized camera that shoots with 35mm film specially made for this machine, shooting on film is possible once again! And it’s not that expensive (of course until you start thinking how in the name of hell will you ever process the material that you’ve filmed) so well done Mubi and Lomokino.
The film, which you can watch for free here if you have a mubi.com account, doesn’t have a plot to speak of, it’s mostly recollections from the past along with free asociations that link up the nature, the modernity and the tradition that fight each other every second inside Thailand, and ghost stories, stories from the past that have some repercusion in the present, memories from ghost-like characters, talking about years and customs that are no more. The magic of this short film is that its structure liberates the mind from anything that would resemble a structured thought, it liberates you from boundaries and lets your mind fly free and enjoy the visuals, the colours and the always mesmerizing sound of the film going through the machine, a sound that goes in synch with what Í consider half of the movie: darkness, every frame of the film is followed by a blank frame, a black frame between them, as a desacelerated film projector that show us how it works, the machine and the short use that to their advantage to dwelve us deeper into the womb of film itself that the short tries to put us into. It tries to mimic, with its saturated and grainy look, the times we spent inside of our own mothers, and tries to permeate the experience to that of being at a theater and experiencing a film in the darkness, and it’s not the first time that the metaphor has been done, and that’s because it’s one that rings a bell inside of us. When we are in film, we are in another state, we feel liberated and on transe, let’s live and breathe movies for a while.