A Film a Week - Bedridden / Hevtriyn hun

 previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

If you are coming with the idea to see a piece of a standard-issue festival exoticism, given that the film comes from Mongolia, known for its beautiful landscapes of vast steppes populated by nomads who live their traditional lives, you might be gravely disappointed with Byamba Sakhya’s “Bedridden” that premiered at this year’s edition of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. The bed and bedridden-ness is the least of the “problem”, Sakhya is actually more interested in more universal things like love stories framed in the unique melange of cinematic styles coming from Asia, Europe and the US. Nevertheless, Sakhya has a lot to offer in “Bedridden”.

The unnamed young writer (Battulga Ganbat) realizes that there is no reason for him to get out of his bed until he finishes his next body of work that could, theoretically, propel his “fame” from the obscure blogging to a higher level. There is nothing awaiting him in the outside world at the moment, the relationship with his girlfriend Tsolmon (Ariunchimeg Tumursukh) is going through a rocky patch, his wealthy father (Dorjsuren Shadav) can support him and even hire a maid, his mother (Oyunzul Dorjderem) can come to visit him, and his younger half-sister Namuu (Oyun-Erdene Batbaatar) can go on errands for him. It does not mean that any of them is happy with his egocentric decision, however.

The real problem our aspiring writer has to deal with is of another kind, quite common for his profession: the dreaded writer’s block followed by the “curse of the empty paper”, here in the virtual form, on his MacBook. Can the collection of his and other people’s love stories they are willing to share with him break it, while the world outside, even if presented through a metaphor of an empty roller coaster running up and down and round and round, would not wait for him?

There is hardly any plot to speak of and Bedridden, which is actually an adaptation of Gunaajav Ayurzana’s eponymous novel. It is basically a string of conversations with deadpan, almost declamatory line delivery, and illustrated narrations of the characters’ stories, memories and fantasies set over different periods of time. It is not easy to follow if the stories are related, although some of the items, like the bed, the simple room and the clock on the wall, complete with its ticking that is the basis of the film’s striking sound design, are recurring. On the other hand, all of it might just as well be in the writer’s own mind, as he tries to connect the dots and turn it into his work.

Watching “Bedridden” actually feels more like reading a (long) love poem or a stream-of-consciousness-type novel, than as a narrative movie experience. The flat line delivery by otherwise playful actors fits the bill perfectly against all odds, even emphasising on that feeling. Sakhya is at the top of his game when it comes to the auditive and visual components of filmmaking, he takes all he can from Tuvshintugs Bardal’s beautiful black and white cinematography in quite a wide aspect ratio and Ariunsaikhan Davaakhuu’s slick, modernist production design in the usually longer scenes and passages he edited himself. Some of the long, continuous tracking shots are a pure poetry to look at.

Bedridden” might be a tad overlong and more than a bit disjointed, not just plot-wise (for instance, the use of music might sometimes be frustratingly counter-intuitive), but no one said imagining a writer’s creative process and converting into a movie would be an easy task. Sakhya’s film feels pretty unique, for better or for worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment