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For as beautiful and sincere as this film is, it's honestly a little frustrating.
There isn't really anything to complain about concerning the presentation of the film. It looks very good, with the visual nature of certain scenes creating a sort of dream like state, which is fitting considering the meditative nature of the story. The music is fine, though I don't think it's especially memorable except for maybe a couple of instances, one of those being the jarring opening track, which frankly does not fit the tone of the film nor does it compliment the musical accompaniment for the remainder of the run time. That's no biggie though. It's just one slip up in an otherwise competent score. Of course the acting's good. You should pretty much assume that'll be the case for all good film.
So if the presentation tends to range from pretty good to spellbinding, then where does the frustration come from? The issue that I have this film is that it's difficult to really say with any certainty what exactly is intentional in it. That issue applies to not only the presentation, but the story as a whole. This might be a problem with my perception, but what I found was happening repeatedly as I watched this film was that I had to stop and ask "Why is this happening?". I don't mean to say that events in the story didn't make sense, it' not that hard to follow. What I have to wonder is, why exactly did the director choose to put certain moments in the film? What is tying it all together? The thing with meditative films, which I have no fundamental problem with, is that the lack of urgency should be supplanted with clear theme and motive from a story telling perspective. The sequence of events in a film don't all have to connect to each other via the plot, but rather via the theme.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, but I really struggled to come up with a clear thesis for how all the scenes in this film really complimented each other. The film clearly wants to be a commentary on life and death. The problem is that every film is about life and death, so that isn't really good enough for tackling this film. Too bad I can't really get any more specific without sort of just guessing at it with little confidence. The best answer I can come up with is that this film is trying to say that you can't fully appreciate life without accepting the reality of death. That doesn't sound too bad, and maybe it fits. Ultimately though, I can't formulate an answer that brings all the disparate elements of this film together in a cohesive way.
One final note which might add clarity to my lack of confidence in the direction of this film whose individual scenes are all wonderful works of art, is in the ending of this film. Naturally I'm not going into the specifics of the plot, but I should say that there is a moment in the latter half of the third act which seems to betray the spirit of the film as a meditative piece on the relationship between life and death. For the most part, this film lacks any real sense of urgency or legitimate conflict. I think that's totally acceptable in this instance, however, it is not consistent. The final sequence in this film tries to create a sort of false sense of tension which not only contradicts the rest of the presentation of the film, but which is not even believable in and of itself. There was never any point in this film where I was especially surprised by the sequence of events or felt that there was any real peril. So when the director tries to suggest it in order to satisfy a formula which doesn't even fit the type of film she's making, it sort of calls into question what else in the film was actually meant to fit in the way that I perceived.
This film is beautiful. I like it a lot, and if you haven't seen it yet then I would recommend it. Despite what I feel are some disingenuous moments, this film is born out of sincere intention and presents its subject matter with a clear mind towards honesty and integrity. Maybe after I watch it a second time I'll like it even better. Who knows.
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