“Blessed Land” premiered at the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival and is taking part in the Shorts Competition.
The film tells the story of a mother and her son, who are looking for the grave of her deceased husband. Not visited the graveyard for decades, the woman cannot remember where the grave is. Additionally, the place has been partially reconstructed as a golf course and a lot of tombstone are not in their place anymore.
Years ago, the graveyard has been sold and the old graves have been excarvated. As we follow the search, the movie introduces us to a second pair. A rich father and his daughter, who are enjoying the view at the new golf course.
Vietnamese director Phạm Ngọc Lân mirrors the two couples and presents opposite life situations. The poor mother/son couple contradicting the spoiled daughter/father duo. Using black-white contrast and day-for-night shots in his images, Lân does not only point out to this duality, but also highlights the sceneric dunes of the landscape. He successfully adds a bigger dimension to the nature shots and makes little details appear like big backdrops. This is also due to the camera work of Trang Công Minh, who catches the diversity of little things by zooming into the micro level and changes our perception of the mise-en-scene. These sequences show some really beautiful and artful images, combining them with a contemplating, almost philosohpical undertone. The smooth editing and the sound design supplement the impression of a pensive movie. Hearing the wind blowing over the dunes, one may think of the mother’s fading memory or the approaching storm that will bring change to the current state.
After all “Blessed Land” tells us about a cover-up. To the delight of a superficial society, morbidity is hidden underneath a trimmed layer of golf lawn and does not ruin the instagram-fitting view. But the repression of death is not for good, and at the end of the movie, the truth befalls the screen again.