Review – FORÊT DEBUSSY (Cheng Chui Kuo, 2016, Taiwan)

FORÊT DEBUSSY || Directed by – Cheng Chui Kuo / Written by – Cheng Chui Kuo / Produced by – Aileen Li, Hsiang-Wen Tu / Music by – Evgueni Galperine / Cinematography – Antoine Héberlé / Editing by – Nyssa Li, Yannis Polinacci / Starring – Lun-Mei Gwei, Yi-Ching Lu / Running time: 94 mins.

foretdebussyposterReal-life mother daughter Gwei Lun-meu and Kuo Cheng-chui, who once worked with director Lu Yi-ching on his short film Family Viewing, star in his feature directorial debut Foret Debussy. They play a mother and daughter who run in a forest due to a recent tragedy they experienced.

The key word in this film is survival. Another is escape. The forest in which the entire film is set is, in fact, a character in its own right. This is a fact highlighted by the cinematography, the physical performances of the two leads and the noticeable lack in dialogue. The latter element really brings to the fore the importance of the interactions between the two actresses and the setting, as well as the excellent work of sound editing; the title of the film implies a thematic connection with Debussy and the composer’s influences from nature and its sounds.

Foret Debussy is not a film that depends on passive viewing; it is engaging because it is difficult. Lu Yi-ching’s pace is slow and the emotions sink in gradually and painfully. So dedicated is he to the process that he never fully takes us out of the world he illustrates; the few flashbacks are only recorded audio juxtaposed to shots of the forest, or close-ups of Gwei Lun-meu’s face, which is often filmed identically to the landscape itself – visualizing a face like a landscape. This specific structure represents the healing process initiated by survival and the fact that distance from civilization by escape to wilderness is brutal but necessary to initiating it also carries strong environmentalist messages. – ★★★★

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