QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM ROTTERDAM
Stones are animated and sentient. They contain a human being trapped inside each one of them. They set themselves free upon landing on our planet. And they make a lot of noise. The first 15 minutes or so of this adventure consists of a young woman with a piercing voice screaming from inside one of the tiny celestial bodies heading towards Earth (meteorites roughly the size of an orange). Once outside their unusual cocoons, these creatures assume a normal human size. Our protagonist remains invisible to the majority of human beings, and takes advantage of her “superpower on manifold situations.
She believes that every inanimate object has a different sound. She sets off on a mission to identify them, supported by a sound engineer with a boom microphone to hand. They wish to collect as many of those unique frequencies as possible. They also aim to capture an OM sound (the sound of the universe, according to ancient Asian philosophy). There are also some vague lessons inn physics and astronomy, including constant talk of black holes. This is about as much as I could make out of the barely coherent movie plot.
Susie Au’s sophomore feature just premiered at the 53rd International Film Festival Rotterdam. The director made her first feature Ming Ming nearly 20 years ago (in 2006). She Fell to Earth is not marketed as a children’s film, but it is clearly aimed at a much younger audience. The intonation of the characters (with constant pitch changes), the didactic breaking of the fourth wall, the superficial referencing to physics and superpowers, and the excessive, very basic use of special affects are all common ingredients of the television shows and movies made for our little ones.
The Festival Director Vanja Kaludjercic compared Susie’s work to Michel Gondry, and the parallels are indeed there. Au is a prolific music video director and this clearly shows, with the fast editing and the lack of a straightforward narrative. The touch of surreal and absurd is also there. It’s just the technical wizardry is far less sophisticated. Instead of intricate models, the fast-shrinking humans and advanced CGI effects commonly associated with the French video director and filmmaker, Au opts for simple tricks such as sudden changes in motion speed, shutter speed, successive jump cuts (in order to convey an illusion that people and things disappeared), split screens, spinning drones, etc.
Interestingly, She Fell on Earth provides viewers with a snapshot of Hong Kong’s hidden rooftop slums, a sight most people don’t associate with the highly developed Chinese city and special administrative region. The images are beautiful however a little cosmeticised. Colourful sheets hanging on a washing line and young people prancing down the narrows streets make these impoverished areas look colourful and boisterous.
Otherwise, this is a largely unremarkable movie.