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Can't say I have seen a film from Tajikistan, which is where Flight
the Bee originates. Even had to go look it up on a map
just to know where it was!
It looks like it is a Russian occupied province north of Afghanistan and just south of the Russian border.
Anyway, Flight of the Bee is a wonderful little story about two feuding neighbours. One, a simple teacher at the local school, is unfuriated when his wealthy neighbour builds his toilet right on their boundary line. The stench is unbearable, and the teacher tries to come to some sort of amicable arrangement. It fails.
So he decides to buy his grandfathers property (which borders on the other side), and build a toilet right under the owners bedroom window. This involves digging a big hole ("I want this toilet to last seven generations"). And I mean a *big* hole.
A whimsical tale that hides some strong messages, Flight of the Bee was an absolute delight to watch. Behind its fun exterior there are some darker themes; the teachers family is near destitute because he has spent all his money writing a book which has yet to be finished or published; he ignores all around him and continues to dig the well, forsaking his book and his teaching.
There is a lot in this simple film to mull over afterwards. A journey well worth it.
8 out of 10
Set in a little village in Tajikistan, Korean director Min Byung Hoon's
debut feature, made in collaboration with Russian director Jamshed
Usmonov, makes a universal statement about human nature through a
relatively simple story. The village's headmaster makes a complaint
about his neighbour who has built an outside latrine right next to the
wall that separates their properties. Not only does it cause an awful
stench, but the neighbour looks over into the wall and watches the
headmaster's wife while he is standing there. As his neighbour is a
rich man with influential friends in Moscow, the mayor is reluctant to
do anything about the problem, saying that it's his own private
property and he is entitled to use it whatever way he chooses. The
headmaster therefore decides to take matters into his own hands and
tries to force the issue by purchasing a property next door to the
mayor. Events soon escalate out of control.
The film takes its title from a story told by the headmaster to his pupils from the time of Alexander the Great, when it was the tradition for old men to be thrown into a pit when they passed a useful age. Alexander's vizier however hid his father in a wooden chest and carried him around with them. One day when the army were dying of thirst, the old man advised his son to leave a bowl of honey for a bee that would drink it until it became thirsty and then lead them to a source of water. The flight of the bee teaches the men respect for the wisdom of their elders, for the past and for traditions. In the modern world however, it is not wisdom and learning that are respected, but money and influence.
Beautifully filmed in tinted black-and white, using non-professional actors, and seeped in the traditions of the nation and the ordinary people of the countryside, The Flight of the Bee achieves a simplicity and yet a richness comparable with Daruish Mehrjuti's 1969 Iranian film The Cow - fully associated with Tajikistan, yet universal in its meaning and brought to the screen with a uniqueness of expression by its Korean director.
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