Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Deep In the Valley (2009)/ Atsushi Funahashi

The film's theme about the existence of an object being subject completely to its documentation is interesting, if not wholly original, having been explored before in films such as Night and Fog, Cinema Paradiso and Inglourious Basterds. At its very core, Funahashi’s film is also about scepticism that brews within the members of a younger generation regarding the truthfulness of the history that their elders have passed onto them. They find their immediate history fascinating, but dubious. They are ready to believe in it as fascinating verbal traditions that they will pass down the generations themselves, but not necessarily as what truly happened. Therefore, the two protagonists (the film association girl and the swindler), piqued by the mystery of the pagoda, instead believe in replacing a mere verbal document (as told to them by an elder), by a tangible one ( a photograph, a film), and thus, go around looking for an elusive film about the five story pagoda, in order to subjugate the ambiguity over its existence for once and for all. The conflict between what is ‘said’ and what is ‘shown’ – between a verbal account and a visual one is pronounced even more when residents append photographs with their descriptions, as if to assure conviction in their ‘listeners’. Funahashi seeks to pronounce this conflict even more through the inclusion of inter-titles at specific moments in the film, which provide the viewer with ‘written’ accounts of history. He then proceeds to extol on it visually, and challenges the audience to observe the differences between the written account and the filmic one.
Funahashi claims that film is thus, the definite proof. Anything captured film, has to have existed. It evokes legendary French critic Andre Bazin’s ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’ wherein he conveys an idea about the cinema essentially being a mode of preservation of a historical truth, and thus, a means for its immediate user to ‘defeat time’. Therein, Deep in the Valley makes another statement about the permanence of film itself – or its capabilities of immortalisation.

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