Another double bill, this time two documentary films. Behemoth by the Chinese film director Zhao Liang, and Happiness by French film director Thomas Balmes. Both have the quiet rectitude of bringing in to sharp focus the conundrum of humanity and progress.
Behemoth, Zhao Liang
Behemoth underscores the voracious exploitation of resources in modern day China. It's an existential plunge in to the hell fires of a vast man made and man mad environment. The cinematic imagery is raw, Dantean, depicting a world and its people ravished by the plunder of open cast mining in Inner Mongolia and on a scale that is hard to believe were it not for the unerring eye of the camera. You watch as whole landscapes are physically razed, melted down and re-cast in to unending vertical metropolises, or 'ghost cities', totally empty because of misguided rehabilitation projects. The effect is dystopian beyond comprehension and Liang's spiritual, poetical and surreal handling, overlayed with an eery sound track of Tuvan throat singers, leaves you eviscerated.
Happiness, Thomas Balmes [film still]
Happiness by Thomas Balmes more or less leaves you happy and charts the arrival of television and the internet in to the Kingdom of Bhutan as seen through the eyes of an eight year old monk living in the last village to be connected. The film is a silent witness to this cultural intrusion and as you watch the innocence of the small boy growing up in a rural community it is in parallel to the loss of innocence as farmers sell of their yaks to buy a television set and spend nights watching American wrestling, in English.