For my last bit of coverage of the 2018 Derby Film Festival I take in some profoundly miserable Nepalese surrealism!
Shankar and Prakash are depressed and frustrated. They see no escape from their current life, so they decide to take their chances in the next life. But things don’t go according to plan with their suicide pact, and time appears to fold in on itself.
For director Animesh Sapkota it’s not enough to simply tell us that life is hopeless for these two young men. He goes to excruciating lengths to show their boredom with a long series of long takes in which nothing happens. They’re perfectly framed as beautiful still-lives, and at times the only thing that’s moving onscreen is the drifting smoke from a cigarette.
It’s all about contrast. Because much of the film is composed of these languid, almost static scenes, the tension becomes unbearable whenever anything does threaten to happen. For much of the film the only sound to be heard is the background ambience and the occasional mutterings of our two heroes. But one long woodland sequence features some exceptionally stirring music by Subash Poudel. Again, as it’s bookended by extensive stretches of near silence, it’s all the more impactful.
It’s just over an hour long. But because very little happens, it feels like much longer. This isn’t to say it’s boring. It really draws you into its claustrophobic world. It invites you to slow down, to take a deep breath, and to imagine a land and a life beyond. And despite its weighty themes and its desperate characters, it didn’t leave me feeling miserable so much as mystified.
Because something strange is afoot here. We see the same scenes multiple times, but from different viewpoints and different angles. The thing is, it appears to be the same people occupying each viewpoint. Time appears to churn, and a number of hallucinogenic scenes seem loaded with symbolism.
I’d love to watch it again, to pay close attention to the clothes people wear and the order in which things happen. With the combination of the short running time and the opacity, Vismrit seems specifically made for multiple viewings. This is definitely one to keep you up at night.