The first names of the filmmaking couple are Petr and Corinne.
Maung Aung Pwint is according to a text at the beginning of the film the ”most famous living dissident poet” in Burma/Myanmar. He was imprisoned several times for his poetry and activism, it is said, and he says to the film crew, ”let’s make a long poem together”.
And Petr Lom, director and cinematographer, does his best to live up to that challenge. He creates stunningly framed and composed images that do simply not ”illustrate” what films with or about literature often do. Klichés are avoided. Many images include the (English) texts of poems which are being read. These are Maung Aung Pwint’s poems or poems from younger poets and – if I got it right – other poets, who have been imprisoned because of their writing and activism. In many cases you simply see the poet reading the poem.
… a long poem together, yes an elephant with a man riding on top
of it walks to the water to drink, a man walks slowly in a kind of tai-chi in a street, three dogs are barking at him and the camera I suppose, a man plowing his land, and many other situations are caught with the camera. Sequences with no purpose for the story as such.
However, the film is for me primarily a love story with Maung Aung Pwint and his wife in the leading roles. I could have stayed with them during the whole film. The smiling wife who takes care of him, who has Parkinson’s, and can not write himself any longer. So she does the writing, and is being gently corrected, when he observes a misspelling. He never talks to her about his stays in prison, she only hears about that, when he gets visits from people, who were with him behind bars. ”In jail we could write more, that’s the good thing that came out of it”, he says, and adds some wonderful sentences about how he made friends with the ants in the small cell. The wife warms his feet, holds his hand when they take a walk, takes care of everything, that is the impression you get. There is a grandchild and there are poems/lines that refer to the childhood remembered. And it is very emotional when the son comes back from Finland to visit, the father and mother have not seen him since 1996. ”I thought that my father would come back if I sat at the river and caught a fish”, the son remembers from his childhood. A key scene, poetry, and many of the poems presented in the film are fine literature.
When you have the ambition of making one long poem, you face the risk of losing the red thread once in a while. And there are some moments, where I thought why… a car race in the city, a long water festival sequence, a kite that falls down burning, a young woman saying that women are not respected in Burma, fireworks… seems like the filmmakers thought that some information had to be conveyed. Necessary? But the poet and his wife, thank you for bringing them on screen. It IS an impressive film, and let me also tribute the music score by Geir Jenssen, never too pushy just adding to the film and its images.
The film will be shown at One World Festival in Prague this week, it will have its international premiere at CPH:DOX, is the closing film at Cinema du Réel in Paris beginning of April, and will be screened at Visions du Réel in Nyon.
Netherlands, Norway, 2017, 81 mins.