This fctional story reveals the consequences of an imbalanced relationship between humans and the environment. The flm is introduced by a poem about unity by Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore’s words on nature, nurture, and misdirected love unlock Thảo Nguyên Phan’s episodes about destruction, disintegration, and rebirth. The opening story tells of a food that causes the death of two brothers. The siblings remain forever bound to the Mekong River in cycles of reincarnation. Their story in this life recounts the 2018 collapse of a hydroelectric dam in Laos, which caused many deaths and displaced thousands
The ‘First Reincarnation’ captures the industrial life of the Mekong River, with readings from Marguerite Duras’ novel L’Amant (The Lover). The ‘Second Reincarnation’ overlays documentary footage of waste and excess with parables on consumption from Italo Calvino’s fctitious travelogue Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities). Phan’s fable concludes with a Khmer folktale about human greed and beauty. The animated characters reference the decapitated Khmer statues that were taken from Cambodia by colonising powers. They are superimposed onto engravings by Louis Delaporte, a French expeditionist and artist.
References: Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), The Gardener, 1913; Marguerite Duras (1914-1996), L’Amant, 1984; Italo Calvino (1923- 1985), Le città invisibili, 1972; and Louis Delaporte (1842-1925).
Text written by Sally Noall.