Shisi ke pingguo
Gateway | Gateway
Frequent VIFF visitor Midi Z’s third documentary is an extraordinary and subtle film about Wang Shin-hong, an actor who suffers from insomnia. Wang has been the main actor and producer of all four of Taiwanese-Burmese director Midi’s fiction films. When Wang complains of his insomnia to his mother, she goes to a fortune teller for advice. He offers a cure: enter a monastery for 14 days, and eat an apple each day. Whereupon Wang decides to go to a tiny rural Burmese monastery, and Midi Z follows along with his camera.
The result is a delightful, gently paced tale of a temporary monk. Wang, head shaved, wearing a simple red robe, immediately is welcomed by the local villagers, whose intense religious faith affords him respect and devotion. He in turn listens intently, witnesses a dispute between senior monks (one accuses the other of spending money on women) and takes quite naturally to dispensing sound moral advice.
There’s a gentle irony to the film, as Midi’s strictly observational camera catches incidents that may seem wryly funny (why do the villagers automatically seem to revere an instant monk?) but are presented to us in real time, patiently and respectfully. Documentary occasionally mutates into something more like fable, and it does so here as Wang’s "therapy" starts almost imperceptibly to change him and the world around him.