Silent And Tense, QINGLANG DE TIANKONG 清朗的天空 Is An Invitation For Interpretation
A daughter gets pulled in two different directions by her mother and the reappearance of her absentee father.
Director: Thamsatid Charoenrittichai
Cast: Anongnart Yusananda, Duangjai Hiransri, Chertsak Pratumsrisakhon
Language: Thai, Chinese
Runtime: 20 mins
In Qinglang de Tiankong, Fahsai finds herself stuck between her mother and her father, who has reappeared only after ten years of absenteeism from her life.
The tension that stems from Fahsai’s dilemma plays out in long, sustained shots that invite us to search for the flashes of expression that flicker across her face, in order to understand her thoughts. She barely reveals anything, and the only way we can begin to understand Fahsai is to observe her and attempt to draw meaning from the way she reacts.
Likewise, there is little dialogue in this film. The empty silences that persist between conversations further builds the tension between characters, while the lack of dialogue gives us space to fill in the gaps in conversations with the meanings we derive on our own. Even in rare moments of vulnerability, where Fahsai’s parents cry in the middle of the night, we only manage to glimpse at it through a barrier. Without explicitly exposing the inner workings of the characters on screen, we have to, as active viewers, derive meanings about them on our own through observations of their actions.
There is also a creature that lingers on the sidelines of most scenes, though none of the characters seem to notice or acknowledge his presence. This literal manifestation of the ‘elephant in the room’ creates a rather tense atmosphere even without the creature uttering a single word or actively participating in the film, and the obvious strain in the characters’ relationships is deftly ignored by everyone — though it is palpable and evident through the screen.
The repeated appearance of the Chinese opera, however — as well as the creature, who looks like something out of Buddhist mythology — is something that I can’t really make sense of. The noise and bustle of Chinese opera is indeed jarring against the relative silence of Fahsai’s apartment, though I think there might be a deeper meaning to it that I can’t really grasp at.
It hints at something deeper that is frustrating because of my relative dearth of knowledge, and none of the characters ever bring it up — which I think is the whole point of the film. No one ever articulates their deepest emotions or innermost thoughts, and likewise this jarring addition of the Chinese opera adds to the tension that underlies the atmosphere of the film, where we want them to say something, but they don’t.
Qinglang de Tiankong allows us to glimpse into the lives of its characters, without overt explanations or descriptions of their lives and their emotions. Much like watching a stranger’s life play out from afar, we’re invited to freely engage with and interpret the goings-on of these characters lives, in what might be an interesting observation of their world.
Qinglang de Tiankong has been selected to take part in the SeaShorts Competition at the 2019 SeaShorts Film Festival, which will be held in Malacca from 25 – 29 September 2019. You can catch Qinglang de Tiankong at the festival, along with many other excellent Southeast Asian films, by registering for a pass via Peatix.
About SeaShorts Film Festival
SeaShorts is an annual celebration of Southeast Asian short film featuring film screenings, forums, workshops, exhibitions, and music performances by filmmakers. Its inaugural edition was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2017.
Across its past two editions, over 1500 filmmakers and cinephiles from the region came together to watch, indulge and celebrate the complex buffet of ASEAN stories, as well as learn about the latest independent filmmaking techniques through film screenings, forums, masterclasses, and workshops.
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