Magazine article Screen International

'Silent Mist': Busan Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Silent Mist': Busan Review

Article excerpt

A Chinese village is beset by a series of violent crimes in this drama based on true events

Silent Mist

Dir/scr. Miaoyan Zhang. China-France. 2017. 101mins.

Inspired by a real-life series of unsolved attacks, filmed with bleak naturalism and steeped in the thriller genre, Silent Mist immerses viewers in the day-to-day reality of modern-day Chinese society; its rhythms and routines, as seen in a southern waterfront village, as well as the increasing influence of greed, power and corruption at a community level.

Like the seeping fog that cloaks its setting in weary shades of grey, the film launches into its story quietly and gradually

It proves an intriguing, mostly compelling combination for Miaoyan Zhang, who brings both fluid images and firm commentary to his fourth feature after 2007’s Xiaolin Xiaoli, 2009’s Black Blood and 2014’s A Corner of Heaven. With the filmmaker directing, co-writing, producing, shooting and editing, the Busan-debuting effort - and recipient of post-production support from the festival’s Asian Cinema Fund - is as much a showcase for his talents as a slow-building portrait of a fast-evolving society.

Accordingly, given the modest international play that Zhang’s work has enjoyed to date - including collecting a Netpac award in Rotterdam for his sophomore title - further festival berths should beckon. While his previous feature earned three Asia Pacific Screen Award nominations, Silent Mist deserves to garner the multi-skilled talent further attention; visually and emotionally, it’s assured, ambitious and involving, though sometimes overstated.

Like the seeping fog that cloaks its setting in weary shades of grey, the film launches into its story quietly and gradually, but with its dark details soon inescapable. Hypnotic tracking shots first peer along the side of a small-town canal by boat, then follow villagers strolling through the adjacent markets, establishing a baseline of life’s ebbs and flows that will soon be disrupted.

As well as offering an introductory glimpse of the locale before trouble encroaches, the sequence captures the entrance of an elderly travelling musician. …

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