Our world of isolation, loneliness, existential anxiety and introspection has been accurately depicted in two films filmed and edited before pandemic: Bedridden (2020) by Byamba Sakhya (Mongolia) and The Pink Cloud (A Nuvem Rosa, 2021) by Iuli Gerbase (Brazil).
Among twelve first and second feature fiction films that were screened at 25. Sofia International Film Festival (11-25 March 2021), two in particular caught my attention for their unmistakable relation to our current ‘new normal’, our world of isolation, loneliness, existential anxiety and introspection. Both films were filmed and edited well before the pandemic started, so watching them now feels as if the world was already heading towards this catastrophe, it’s just that many of us couldn’t see it happening. But some did. One is second time director from Mongolia, Byamba Sakhya with film Bedridden and the other is first time director from Brazil, Iuli Gerbase, who directed the film The Pink Cloud.
Gerbase’s characters, Giovana and Yago, are two strangers who, after their one night stand, are now forced to live together after a deadly cloud of unknown origins paralyses the whole world and everyone remains in quarantine for years. Sounds familiar, right?
Gerbase’s film depicts today’s world with such incredible precision, that we could state she is a brilliant prophet. Maybe too brilliant, for her own good, as at the end she is a much better prophet than author. Apparently watching our boring lives on small screens from our apartments, as we are still locked down, isn’t that engaging after all.
On the other hand, Bedridden also suffering from some heavy shortcomings, first one being pretentiousness, offers an interesting portrayal of contemporary urban Mongolia, something we don’t see that often on screen. With an elegant visual style and compelling black and white photography Byamba Sakhya managed to surprise us with some interesting directorial choices, and by avoiding many stereotypes such as depicting Mongolian nomads living in yurts on wasteland, focusing instead on modern, urban setting among the higher middle class. We are introduced to a country of modern interiors and concrete, skyscrapers and iPhones, where people with cool jobs ruminate about relationships and rich people hire housemaids for sex.
Byamba Sakhya plays a lot with several stories within the main story, making it fun to decipher all the layers and pointing out the relativity of what is true and what is fictional. Bedridden shares this characteristic with another intriguing film from competition Cemil Show (Cemil Şov) by Turkish director Bariş Sarhan.
The main character, a writer suffering from an existential and creative crisis, decides not to leave his bed. On his own initiative, he becomes trapped in his room, making himself one of us, living in the ’new normal’. His Sartrian character contemplating about love, sex and relationships is actually looking for his life’s purpose, trying to find out who he really is and what he wants. Some unavoidable questions recently, for people and institutions equally.
© FIPRESCI 2021
Edited by Savina Petkova