Buoyancy Review : W&E @ MAMI 2019
Buoyancy is a film which is not only brutal but also psychological, that is bound to leave the audience shook long after the film gets over. Boasting of strong performances and haunting visuals, Buoyancy shakes the heart and mind to the core.
Commenting on the ills of slavery, the film tells the story of a fourteen year boy, Chakra who is the son of a paddy farmer in Cambodia who in an attempt to escape to Thailand for a better life, is smuggled as a slave on a fishing trawler which is devoid of humanity. One is made to work for 22 hours a day and if found insufficient dumped into the vast oceans without warning.
Brutal in its storytelling, writer-director, Rodd Rathjen creates a world where lawlessness is the only norm. One of the shots in the film where fish are being pulled out of the ocean is used repetitively throughout the film which stands out as an immensely strong metaphor for millions being smuggled into slavery.
The character progression of Chakra, played brilliantly by Sam Heng, is a sight to behold as the innocence is slowly stripped out of his soul and he becomes a 'man', as stated by the formidable captain of the trawler, Rom Ran, played by Thanawut Kasro. But all this while, a recurrent theme in Chakra as well as the film in general , is that of hope and balancing the themes of brutality and hope is done impeccably with the cinematography. Be it someone getting brutally bashed to death, the loneliness of the ocean, or the blue shine of the sea reflecting in Chakra's hopeful eyes, cinematographer, Michael Latham uses a balance of haunting yet calm visuals to complement the brilliant storytelling.
The sound design of the film intensifies the loneliness of the protagonist and that of the seascape, with sparse sounds of seagulls or hollow footsteps on the boat accompanied by a constant sound of the waves. The score only kicks in during extremely intense moments when our protagonist's character is being morphed and fleshed out at certain points throughout the film.
Buoyancy is truly great when it comes to the art of character development and this is seen through Rathjen and the team's constant dedication, which makes it not only a great social commentary but also a brilliant character-piece.