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CathayPlay Short Film Review: Lost Train Lost Days (2022) by Shen Ruilan

Lost train Lost days still
The dream you told me just now. What is it like?

Born in Suzhou, Jinagsu Province, lives and works in Hangzhou. She got her M.F.A., Institute of Basic Visual Studies from China Academy of Art. She focuses on the relationship between the ephemeral things in the remote world and the image itself, wandering through the visual residue through which the eye reaches things, combining images with space and text, reconstructing them into a series of fragmented collections of the seen world.

Her work has been awarded the best film in the Tides section of the Beijing International Short Film Festival (BISFF) Chinese Language Competition, and has been selected for the IDF Academy Incubation Programme at the West Lake International Documentary Film Festival, the Horizon Programme at the Cinecina New York Chinese Film Festival, and the Hainan International Film Festival. It has been screened at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Luo Zhongli Art Museum and the National Museum of Cultural Heritage. According to her statement,” is a film about the lost people and things of modern civilization, and about their own fading and reincarnation. I followed a two-day, overnight train ride to the depths of my memory, chasing a conductor who wanted to escape from the mundane life. He appeared briefly in my life, like the wind. In the constant retracing of his visions, the people and landscapes I encountered became a series of flowing and hidden...  

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The film begins in darkness, while snow is falling, and a woman in asking a man to tell her about his dream. A series of photos appear in slideshow fashion, as he begins to narrate. They are out of focus, but they seem to match the narration in a somewhat abstract way. Most of them barely have color, but others are quite vivid as the one with the flowers. He refers to an old monk with a beard who came to him and gave him a package. Intermingled are photos from the train mentioned in the paragraph before, although some others seem to portray abandoned wagons.

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The short continues in the same fashion, with the whirring of the slide machine, the sound of the train and the natural sounds of the areas it passes providing the background, while the speed of succession of the photos becomes rather more rapid. The sound also intensifies at some point, as the images depict people sleeping inside the train. Something that resembles a ritual, with fitting sound, follows, while the next scenes include superimposition and the sound of the conductor's voice.

Shen Ruilan has come up with a 7-minute short that seems like an accompaniment to her feature, “Lost Train Lost Days”. Nevertheless, the approach here is definitely experimental, with the result looking more as a video installation than a short film. At the same time, the power of the images is quite intense, while their juxtaposition as much as the manipulation of film works quite well in terms of impact. The narration in combination with the succession of photos follows the regular path of experimental films, although this time, the images frequently fit the voices.

At the same time, and particularly when the speed increases and the sound becomes higher, a sense of tension and urgency is created, which adds to its overall entertainment. The editing emerges as rather effective mostly due to the particular fact. On the rest of the scenes, and particularly in the beginning, the somewhat atmospheric voices and the images create a very appealing sense of calm, which becomes part of the varying atmosphere.

“Lost Train Lost Days” is definitely not a film for everyone, considering its experimental nature, but is quite powerful through the combination of its various elements, and an overall quite immersive experience.

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

Panagiotis (Panos) Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer, specialized in Asian Cinema. He is the owner and administrator of Asian Movie Pulse, one of the biggest portals dealing with Asian cinema. He is a frequent writer in Hancinema, Taste of Cinema, and his texts can be found in a number of other publications including SIRP in Estonia, in Slovakia, Asian Dialogue in the UK, Cinefil in Japan and Filmbuff in India.

Since 2019, he cooperates with Thessaloniki Cinematheque in Greece, curating various tributes to Asian cinema. He has participated, with video recordings and text, on a number of Asian movie releases, for Spectrum, Dekanalog and Error 4444. He has taken part as an expert on the Erasmus+ program, “Asian Cinema Education”, on the Asian Cinema Education International Journalism and Film Criticism Course.

Apart from a member of FIPRESCI and the Greek Cinema Critics Association, he is also a member of NETPAC, the Hellenic Film Academy and the Online Film Critics Association.

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