By Mónica Delgado
Khyentse Norbu Rimpoche’s Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait is a surprising visual experience, in its eclecticism and evocation of neon as a preamble of a color environment extracted from the ancestral traditions of Bhutan and in its bet to develop a liminal space where anything can happen.
The traditional Bhutan masks are used here as elections of its inhabitants, to show a particular characteristic of their identity. The protagonist, identified here as the “expressionless”, due to his mask not having the animal or fantastic styles of the other members, leads a village and puts order on its philosophy of life, where a space is given for people to free their sexuality or basic instincts. That’s why the film was originally censored in its country, because it transgressed the sacred use of the masks in religious rituals that are performed even today.
Like in different mythologies, the masks refer to gods, and the recreation of epics with them. That’s why Hema Hema is plagued with songs, prayers and transcendental chants, which talk about the transit from life to death. Everything here has an atmosphere of ceremony and rite: the arrival of “Expressionless” to the place, the theatrical plays of the afternoon, the funerals or fraternity unions. And through this ritual iconography, the Bhutanese filmmaker takes advantage of the color, the bestiality of masked faces, and the bodies in permanent choreography. Everything works well until the film decays notably from a use of a representation of the feminine full of prejudices which is endorsed by the ideology and the misé in scene of the film, something that impoverishes everything won in the first two hours of footage. Everything shown is lost to the bet of the commonplace, where the women is trivialized and becomes an object of the plot, incapable of decision.
By Aldo Padilla
Learning through repetition is an exercise nobody can get rid of. It would be an injustice for mankind to reduce this “pavlovian” act to a product of mere reflex, although we can’t deny the routine as method of perfecting. In cinema, routine has usually been associated to the tedious, with two filmmakers taking that to its ultimate consequences. In one side, there’s Sofia Coppola, who has based her filmography based in the tediousness of higher classes, and Chantal Akerman, who explored the millimetric routine of a housewife in Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. This routine as a way of life is represented in the military service, where everything seems to repeat itself, like a play rehearsal of a work which will never be shown in public (something Charlie Kaufmann would write about).
Soldier works through the rhythm of drums played by the protagonist, who walks with the foot indicated by the drumstick. Even when the character visits home, the rhythm of the military service is immersed in him. The harmony of the movement of an elevated foot transcends his life in a way. There’s a merit in Abramovich’s approach that moves far away from this hybrid style so particular of his previous film Solar. In this case, he uses contemplation as the perfect environment for what he wants to transmit.
Director: Khyentse Norbu Rimpoche
Script: Khyentse Norbu Rimpoche
Cinematography: Jigme Tenzing
Cast: Tshering Dorji, Tony Leung, Zhou Xun
Producers: Pawo Choyning Dorji, Sarah Chen
Director: Manuel Abramovich
Producer: Gema Juárez Allen, Alejandra Grinschpun
Cinematography: Manuel Abramovich
Editor: Anita Remón
Sound: Sofía Straface