The Canadian-Chinese director Yung Chang who is best known for his documentaries, such as “Up the Yangtze River”, “China Heavyweight” and “Fruit Hunters”, offers a short fictional account of a woman stuck in quarantine. The production, which was commissioned by the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, is part of a series based off the book “Species of Spaces” by G. Perec.
The short film follows a woman (of sorts), a large puppet caught in an frozen sad appearance, and her daily struggles while in quarantine, most notably boredom. From eating the same meal everyday to the lack of toilet paper, the frightened figure stares longingly out the window everyday, caught in the hope of seeing a familiar face.
As soon as the short film opens, the first thing the audience is confronted with is the large papier-mache head of a forlorn and twisted female figure. The puppet made by Annie Katsura Rollins, makes for quite the haunting visage, and although notably sad, the figure does instill a degree of horror with its twisted anatomy. Undeniably, the contorted body with a face frozen in an expression of despair embodies the boredom of a repetitive life in quarantine. Consequently, this figure that personifies current day gloom will draw the audience into its every nuanced move.
With such a haunting opening image of a distorted figure, it is pleasantly surprising to see director Yung Chang making a sympathetic character out of a design that would be well suited for a horror film. The act of repetition due to having to stay isolated is certainly a sentiment many can relate to at this time, and seeing the figure performing the same tasks over and over with the same downtrodden expression makes the figure more personable. Furthermore, there is a degree of hope for them to break the cycle when we see that their only variation comes from the morning cereal spelling out a different depressing word each day, or the generic magazine ads reflecting the want for basic toiletries. With the woman staring out the window each day, longing for some interaction, the audience becomes invested in her finding that person. Ultimately, the short film sees success in building up to this final moment, and the woman’s meeting comes as a sigh of relief and happiness, a sensation that is appreciated during these tough times.
The production approaches the current global situation in a somewhat whimsical way, using a distorted puppet to convey the sense of dread ‘we’ have been feeling, by engaging the audience with a character that portrays a sense of desire for normalcy. As the story unravels and we better understand the woman’s desire, it is easy to get invested in her plight and hope for the best. Overall, the film will charm most audiences within its five minute runtime and portrays positivism in an outlandish way that gives a poetic perspective to the term/title “We Are in This Apart”.