Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Treeless Mountain - Filmhouse - 10/2/10

When I was a little boy you could buy edible paper from the sweet shop.

It wasn't really paper. You couldn't write a letter on it. It was rice paper I think. It was wafer thin and when you put it in your mouth it just dissolved. It didn't taste of anything but I always wanted a bit more of it.

Kim So Yongs 2008 film "Treeless Mountain" is like that.

When we think about a film we are now conditioned to expect suspense, drama, plot twists, a car chase maybe, a sudden, unexpected burst of violence and other "things" to fill our 90 minutes.

Here though there is only the slightest of premises; a young mother estranged from her husband takes her two daughters Bin and Jin to stay with her sister-in-law while she seeks to find her husband.

The aunt isn't a wicked woman who abuses the girls. She's inattentive and a touch cold but she isn't abusive.

The mother isn't neglectful or selfish, she's not a drug addict...she's just a woman struggling to cope on her own.

The girls aren't unpleasant, they don't have filthy mouths, they don't want for anything much other than someone to show them a bit of love and affection.

There isn't anything sinister lurking in the shadows.

There are no car chases.

As the girls catch grasshoppers, cook them and sell them for pennies you are reminded of the innocent endeavours of your own childhood. I used to sell conkers in the playground. When they realise that their mother isn't going to come back you are transported to those moments when you have lost someone who meant so much to you.

From a rice paper thin idea Yong delivers a film that makes you want more and more.

What really makes "Treeless Mountain" are the performances of Hee-yeon Kim and Song-hee Kim as the two young sisters. Neither is older than 9 years old but they give utterly unaffected performances and are totally convincing as two sisters dealing with their world changing rapidly around them.

The film ends with the sisters living on their grandparents farm where, in the most austere of environments, they find peace, happiness and the love they have been desperate for. Free from what we think young people "need" in the modern world the girls sing songs, work alongside their grandmother and learn new skills. Freed from the materialism of the world they have left behind they look, for the first time, to be truly happy.

A delicate and rewarding film.

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