Golden Kingdom

June 26, 2016 at 10:37 am | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

Some of my readers may have preferred that I had reviewed the high-minded “Free State of Jones,” but I think I’ve had enough of the-white-man-saves-the-black-man stories. Or, perhaps, they would have preferred the decidedly low-minded “Independence Day: Resurgence,” though I think I have also had enough annihilation porn with “X-Men: Apocalypse.” So, instead, I saw this tiny little Burmese film in a theater crowded with just two other people. Apparently, the director himself had been at the earlier showing. So, I’m not sure it is fair for me to tell you to run out and see this gem. But, really, run out and see this gem. This visually gorgeous film reminded me of another favorite of mine, the 2003 Korean film, “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring.” Taking place in a tiny monastery in rural Myanmar, the story follows four young Buddhist Ko Yin (acolyte monks), who must cope with being alone after their master is forced to leave on a long journey. Held together by the eldest of the four young boys, the Ko Yin must deal with a mysterious forest, tumultuous political landscape and their own imaginations as they await his return. Like “Spring, Summer…”, this film moves at a serene Buddhist pace. With almost no soundtrack beyond the noises of the jungle and the boys’ chanting, whole scenes go by in complete silence, allowing the audience to simply sink into the stunning images. Rich in primary colors (but particularly in the deep crimson of the monks’ robes), every single scene was stunning to look at. The contrasts of color were particularly arresting to me, as crimson was often set off against the stark white of the temple steps or the deepest black of night. The story is such a simple one and moves so slowly that it invites the audience to slow down and just rest in each moment as it unfolds. Several scenes just focused on the boys in prayer as the camera slowly drifted over their robes, folded hands and serene faces. This is a film about the beauty of simplicity, about how moving light, dark, silence and prayer can be. As I said, this is a small film, with a full cast of just 10 people. In fact, three of the four boys were real Ko Yin. But, in that smallness, also rests the movie’s grandness.

 

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