Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Language film, Rithy Panh's latest adapts his memoir 'The Elimination', which tells of his childhood when he and his family were expelled from Phnom Penh and deported to camps in the country by the Khmer Rouge who took over Cambodia in 1975. Millions died from starvation, over-work or pure brutality. Rithy Panh was the only member of his family to survive. With a brilliant visual coup, Panh recreates and re-imagines life under the Khmer Rouge using tiny, hand-painted figurines. This allows him to visualize, in a profoundly affecting way these otherwise unfathomable traumas.
- The Missing Picture review by Swambi
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You rated this film: 2
The film combines repeated grainy shots of peasants carrying out forced labour, a laconic, slow and unfocussed story line, and an array of clever clay image figures. This didn't spell out a convincing or engaging story of the horrors of the Khymer Rouge to me, but if the film's approach clicked with you I can see that the off-beat rendering of the very real horrors and suffering would be of interest.
French speaking naturalized Cambodian Rithy Panh combines documentary style film making with rather wonderful animation and clay motion to explore the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge against his people; how such despicable actions can be transferred to the screen with such elegance and artistry is both captivating and a little disturbing – all of which only serves to make the Missing Picture all the more powerful.
Panh uses his own experience in a Kampuchean re-education camp to recreate some of the worst of his own memories and archival footage to portray the worst collective memories of a generation of Cambodians.
Yet it is not solely the images of the violence, murder and neglect enacted by the Khmer Rouge that give this film it’s weight; rather by the end I found myself more affected by the things the film does not overtly highlight and that, in their absence, become more potent; the Missing Picture raises numerous questions about memory, collective remembrance and the impact of alternative representations.
Panh’s use of clay motion is excellent and, though many may find it hard to believe, perfectly compliments the other cinematic forms used in the rest of the feature. The combination of real footage and the highly stylized clay motion does not dampen or distract from the pain and shock of what the viewer is seeing but rather offers them an opportunity to witness the sequences in an entirely new fashion – adding a new dimension to an already multi-faceted experience.
The Missing Picture is brilliantly pieced together, feeling more like a piece of artwork than of cinematic making; either way it is a hugely memorable film, both the impact and images of which will stay with you.
You rated this film: 4
Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
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