Eye For Film >> Movies >> Here, There (2011) Film Review
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
There are three 'theres' here: the forested mountains of Northern China, where the reindeer roam; Shanghai, the back alleys and cramped quarters of the aftermath of rapid urbanisation; Paris, all majesty and mystery. These three 'heres' have three stories, loosely, slowly connected, all meditations on place and family, on friends and fate.
Slow is an important word - not long, a hair over an hour and a half - but paced deliberately, carefully, gracefully. There doesn't seem anything wasted, the shots that stretch are beautifully rewarding, not plodding but patient. Beautiful in scale, in scope, each of our three major locations is lovingly rendered.
In the mountians, the "grazier", raising reindeer for their horns. His treks back and forth stunningly depicted - brief glimpses from afar of man in the wilderness, dwarfed by nature. Lu Sheng's direction is a treat. He also served as director of photography, so every visual can be attributed to him - this is spectacle, plain and simple. His talent is more evident away from the sweeping vistas.
In the Shanghai sequences there is a beautiful moment of a young couple spending a private moment togather, in the small dark hours on an overpass of a motorway, around them sweeping canyons of tarmacadam and in the distance the utensil-holder clutter of the Shanghai skyline. Two sequences in Paris, our protagonist on his scooter with shots of the Arc De Triomphe, the tree-lined boulevards, but then the Eiffel Tower shrouded in mist, its upper reaches hidden. Our eyes, as his, drawn to the packed pavements, the neon of Chinese restaurants, punks and their dogs, refuse collection. Later still, in a quest for a lost passport, a long and rambling walk across Paris, down countless streets, round corners, up alleys, a final static shot of a gargantuan subterranean car park, man dwarfed by concrete.
Small stories, these - no less moving, no less surprising - small and human moments in these places. There is grief, there is death and there are exam results. There are offerings to fallen comrades, the prattle of a child to a minibus driver, a funeral that is stark and alienating and terribly, awfully sad.
For all its visual splendour, Yongmin Moon's music and Zhang Yan's sound both contribute to the sense of place. The crispness of snow underfoot, the howl of the wind, the beep and buzz of a gangster's house, stacked high with video games. Jia Hongwei's production design and Liu Quiang's art direction have given us places that feel real - houses and homes and kitchens, food everywhere - do not go to the cinema hungry, or at least have plans to eat afterwards. There is domesticity in an ice-covered tent, daily routines that involve takeaway or chainsaws or strong liquor. It's in these small moments that we see how these three sets of story are connected.
Liu Yong and Xu Yang are credited as screenwriters, as is Lu Sheng. Perhaps each wrote one section, perhaps not - it doesn't matter - their work has given us something whole and human - intimate even, when it is gazing across ridges empty of anything but trees, when the snow is howling past, when there is a bustle and throng of a thousand strangers. The stories themselves are slight: a man is visited by his family; old flames are reunited; after losing his passport, a young man is helped by an older compatriot.
In each there is scale and scope, distance and closeness, and in Lu Sheng's approach this is true visually. It's touching stuff - perhaps a little too aloof, at times, but that speaks to how some of the characters cope. In French and Mandarin, with the living and the dead, these three stories are presented in parallel but in them there are clues as to how they are offset - comparisons abound. This is well-made, well-presented, well-acted, well worth watching.Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2012