Samstag, 30. August 2014

Venice Film Festival: 殯棺 (The Coffin in the Mountain)

Unpolished in its technical aspects and having no name actors to boost its appeal, "殯棺 (The Coffin in the Mountain)" is nonetheless riveting work from Chinese first-time director 忻鈺坤 (Xin Yukun).

Opening with shots of a woman in mourning and a subsequent post-funeral banquet, the movie, befitting of is title, is centered around a handful of deaths and corpses, specifically around the remains contained in one coffin that ends up abandoned in the mountains. Told in three chapters that approach the case in question from different perspectives, the intricately structured script, also by Xin, starts off inconspicuously, although even in the economy of its groundwork and casual efficiency of its exposition there's plenty to like. But it's not until things are seen from another angle and secrets keep tumbling out that the wicked genius of the writing truly reveals itself. Each one of the large cast of characters, carefully linked together via a string of accidents, misunderstandings, coincidences and deceits, holds a little piece of the puzzle and carries a portion of the guilt. Their motives range from infidelity and greed to parental instincts and self-preservation, individually straightforward, but fatally complex when taken together. Not so much suspenseful as consistently intriguing, the story unfolds in such a way that always more curiosities arise as mysteries get answered, drawing you in with an almost comical honesty and a voyeuristic kick.

The actors form a naturalistic, dynamic collective, none of whom stands out to disrupt the vital equilibrium. Apparently shot on no budget, there's no showy element in the art or sound department either, furnishing the film with a plain, low-key style. Which isn't too much of a problem when the plot itself has as much juice as it does, delightfully squeezed out by some clever editing work.

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