QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM THE TALLINN BLACK NIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
A young teacher called Wu Yu (Yan Wensi) receives the devastating news that her mother has been tragic killed in a late-night traffic accident, and that the driver just drove off. She breaks down in agony upon recognising her body in the local morgue. The police tells her that the CCTV did not capture the incident, and there were no eye witness. Wu takes matters into her own hands, desperately posting signs and asking people on the streets for more information, in the hope that the truth will eventually surface.
Wu regrets not paying much attention to her mother’s Buddhist devotion while she was alive, but that immediately changes after the untimely bereavement. She takes up the faith wholeheartedly, frequently meeting her mother’s Buddhist friends, praying, lighting incense and chanting. Plus she agrees to cremate her mother seven days after her death, despite knowing this means destroying the only piece of evidence and compromising the investigation into the crime.
Soon she receives a tip off that helps her to identify the culprit. She meets up with the offender’s lawyer and he offers her a very large compensation in exchange for her silence. He lays a suitcase filled with a large sum of money right in front of her eyes. Wu furiously rejects the money and carries on with the investigation. She wishes to meet the man who killed her mother, but his lawyer refuses to do so. She’s told that he’s a very powerful man. Wu becomes increasingly indignant. The compensation is increased on a par with her indignation. Her husband insists that she should accept the money, but Wu is determined to seek justice instead.
She gradually realises that she’s contending against very powerful and dark forces. Nevertheless, she carries on undaunted. But there could be consequences for her self-determination. Wu’s quest for justice is at times erratic and dysfunctional, her reactions off-the-cuff and unpredictable, leaving her husband entirely despondent. This is not Manichean tales of poor female versus evil establishment. A number of questions are raised. Should Wu take the money? Is she being selfish towards her husband? Or is it her husband being greedy? Is it worthwhile to confront a rotten system? These questions remain unanswered, leaving viewers to reflect about morality and practicality.
The duality of religious teachings are also prominent in the film. Wu embraces Buddhism, yet she remains mostly alien to the values of patience and wisdom. Plus a character who she meets in the final third of the film conveniently conflates compassion with complacence and impunity. He reveals that the teachings of Buddhism can be easily subverted for very mundane and unholy purposes. Religious hypocrisy can be a powerful manipulation tool.
Lost Lotus is showing in Competition at the 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. A heartfelt and potent movie with very convincing performances.