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Bedridden

Young writer refuses to leave his bed as his seeks inspiration for his new book, in this laborious Mongolian drama - live from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN

An unnamed young man (Battulga Ganbat) has a very poor relationship with his girlfriend Tsolmon (Ariunchimeg Tumursukh). She moans: “I cannot be his mother”. He phones a very questionable erectile dysfunction service, only to be told that he doesn’t qualify. His relationship to his parents is equally flawed. Unsurprisingly, our protagonist faces an existential crisis. So he decides to close himself up inside his very own bubble as he writes his next short story.

The people around the young writer continue to engage with him as he writes in bed. They all play significant roles both in his life and in the film as a whole. His father looks after him, but the son regrets that the old man no longer chastises him as he used to in his childhood. Tsolmon too is often by his side. His younger sister Namuu occasionally pops up. She has stalked Tsolmon and has a shocking revelation to make. Meanwhile, a very talkative computer engineer fixes his computer.

The biggest problem with Bedridden is that it has such a wealth of characters and narrative that it’s often unintelligible. Each one of them has a very personal stories of their own to share, and they often narrate them in voice-over mode. The story zigzags back and forth in time as they recall their childhood and the peculiar details of their past dalliances. I struggled enormously to work out who was saying what and when the action was taking place. I often wasn’t sure whether the sequences were intended as memories, imagination or allegory. It felt disjointed.

Plus the dialogues are monotonous, with deadpan actors constantly churning out philosophical pearls of wisdom of little value. The dim black and white photography and the irritating music score (little more than sparse piano notes) add the finishing touch to this protracted and strenuous 114-minute movie, which is based on the eponymous novel by contemporary Mongolian writer Gunaajav Ayurzana.

Most of the story takes place inside spacious and sophisticated apartments in an eerily quiet urban landscape (the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, in all probability). An empty roller coaster is featured throughout the movie. The shaky carriage goes up, down and around, creating an unnerving sense of movement. It presumably mimics the twists and turns of life. These are the most rapturous moments of the film, even if their symbolism isn’t particularly original. If you are prepared to wait until the end of the movie, you might get a glimpse of Mongolia’s vast countryside. Not a distinctly big prize for such a long journey.

Bedridden has just premiered at the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival as part of the event’s Official Competition. DMovies is following the event in loco.


By Victor Fraga - 23-11-2020

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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