489 Years

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

489 Years
"The film makes good use of computer generated recreations of landscape to evoke wonder at nature and capture moments of genuine terror."

Based on testimony from a soldier who spent several years in South Korea's armed forces, stationed along the borderland between it and the North, 489 years is an immersive and impressive piece of film-making.

Opening with an explanation of the Demilitarized Zone, a wide strip of no man's land whose return to nature is bordered by layers of guard towers and fences and walls and bunkers and whose pathways and valleys and streams and hills are punctuated by widely scattered landmines, the film makes good use of computer generated recreations of landscape to evoke wonder at nature and capture moments of genuine terror.

The juxtaposition at its heart is a flower of a type the narrator had never seen before growing from an explosive device. Hayoun Kwon's film depends on good animation work (Fabrice Gaston, Guillaume Bertinet and Luarent Raynaud are credited), but the notion of recreating a place that only a select few have seen in decades and even then at the risk of death is a compelling one. The artificiality of the computer generated landscape parallels the artificiality of the actual terrain, and though it's never not evident that what we are seeing isn't what is actually 'there,' the levels of remove work in its favour.

At 2017's Glasgow Short Film Festival there was a strand of films created for virtual reality, and it is in some ways surprising that this is not that - it certainly benefits from the big screen, but one wonders if its first person perspective would gain from a headset. As it stands, the further cognitive distance of the separation of viewer and screen works to build the impression of a place whose liminality is such that it creates a border even between the quick and the dead. A strong and original piece, this is one to watch for.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2017
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A soldier's memories play over this animated tale of Korea's demilitarised zone.

Director: Hayun Kwon

Year: 2016

Country: France

Festivals:

SSFF 2016
GSFF 2017

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