Sojourn To Shangri-La


Reviewed by: Sergiu Inizian

Sojourn to Shangri-La
"Gently plunges into a richly-textured reverie of unobserved objects, spaces and people that leave a lasting impression on a visceral level."

There's an attraction that short film directors have for meta-filmmaking. It provides a canvas for a story which almost tells itself - what happens behind the scenes. In Yihan Lin's latest short, which premiered at this year's Berlinale, this formula is taken further through striking visuals and a knack for exploring depth within the mundane. Beyond the unexpected disappearance of a key set installation and the delay of a commercial shoot, an oneiric atmosphere makes its presence felt. The result of this strange ambience speaks to a certain filmmaking vision, in which props and equipment act as extensions of a cineaste's desire to explore an inner world that marches to its own soft beat.

Cal (Fu Yunfei), an assistant art director, wanders around the beach looking for her intricate set decoration, which was taken by a tidal wave. As stillness overwhelms the set, the black-and-white camera work embraces the natural elements around the uninterested film crew. The waves and the wind seem to be in tune with Cal’s state of longing. Separating herself from the art director (Kang Jun) who's blase about a situation that thoroughly involves his department, she sets out on a surprisingly intimate journey worthy of the film's eye-catching name.

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The measured degree of experimentation embellishes the protagonist's search for a set piece that bears more than just professional importance. Asking the crew's drone operator to search for the installation, the shots start focusing on the vast surrounding beauty. His handling of the drone is unenthusiastic, offering an uncluttered view of the seaside, but lacking any additional depth. There's a shift in vision once she receives control of the filming tool. The sequences glide over the water, capturing alluring textures that seem to make up Cal's interior space. Again, the scattered crew contrasts with the curious nature of the protagonist, who turns the camera towards their indifferent inertia. Breaking away from the common, predictable way drones are usually used, Lin envisions a threshold toward a deep-seated realm in which past and present interact.

Meeting a villager, Cal inquires about her lost installation. Their conversation is represented through the back and forth of a bird's high-pitched chirp and a low creaking noise. This interplay offers a mythical reason for the unexplained loss of the set piece and presents a glimpse into a long-forgotten past. A space swallowed by a pragmatic vision of the world - an attitude displayed by a film crew that is too hurried to connect with the ethereal surroundings. Meditative in nature, Sojourn to Shangri-La pulls the audience away from this approach and gently plunges into a richly-textured reverie of unobserved objects, spaces and people that leave a lasting impression on a visceral level.

Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2024
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Sojourn To Shangri-La packshot
During a seaside commercial shoot, a complex art piece vanishes overnight. As the situation comes to a standstill, the assistant art director journeys in search of the installation.

Director: Yihan Lin

Writer: Yihan Lin

Starring: Fu Yunfei, Jonathan Mulcahy, Kang Jun, Wang Zi, Li Lu, Yu Qiugui, Tan Shixian

Year: 2024

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: People’s Republic of China


BIFF 2024

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