HRAFF Film Review – Planet of Snail

By Sonia Nair

A stirring depiction of love and resilience in the face of hardship, Seung-Jun Yi’s Planet of Snail revolves around the marriage between Soon-Ho, who was born with a spinal disability that renders her twice as short as an average person, and Young-Chan, deaf and blind from childhood.

The “simple” process of changing the light bulb is a microcosm of the symbiotic life Soon-Ho and Young-Chan lead, where every routine experience is treasured, and where each occurrence is enjoyed through a combination of tactile senses and cognitive thinking.

The two communicate through Braille; Soon-Ho uses her nimble fingers to tap a series of complex sequences onto Young-Chan’s hand, and Young-Chan experiences the world around him by utilising his sense of touch. Effectively demystifying the complex world in which they live for the benefit of Young-Chan, Soon-Ho is instrumental in informing Young-Chan of his eating choices, deciphering the words of others for him, and shedding light on what happens around them.

The regular chore of changing a light bulb morphs into a task of epic proportions early in the documentary, where a heart-rending display of teamwork between Soon-Ho and Young-Chan culminates in an astounding achievement. Whilst the former is unable to reach the light bulb, the latter neither has the sight nor the hearing to adequately perform the task. An hour-long process concludes with success, and a relieved hug shared by the two is enough to elicit tears, jolting viewers with the sudden realisation that anything may just be possible.

The “simple” process of changing the light bulb is a microcosm of the symbiotic life Soon-Ho and Young-Chan lead, where every routine experience is treasured, and where each occurrence is enjoyed through a combination of tactile senses and cognitive thinking.

Whether it is hugging trees, smelling autumnal pine cones or sliding down a mountain in a sleigh – each shared experience is rendered significant through the lens of Seung Jun-Yi’s camera. Touch is tantamount in Young-Chan’s world, and we watch with bated breath and a sense of wonder as he traces the grooves of a tree trunk, lies bare under the weight of sand upon him, and touches the raindrops that grace his windowsill.

A meticulously mapped journey of love, forbearance and endurance, Planet of Snail grips you from the beginning, holds you in the middle and clutches you hard towards the end …

Despite the particular profundity that accompanies each and every one of Soon-Ho and Young-Chan’s shared experiences, their lives resemble that of any other. They regularly entertain friends at their home, drink beer, and each enjoys their own hobbies and has aspirations. While Soon-Ho is depicted as a sublime chef, Young-Chan regularly sculpts, reads using an electro-mechanical Braille device, and dreams of becoming a playwright – a dream he actually realises when he composes a religious play for his church.

A meticulously mapped journey of love, forbearance and endurance, Planet of Snail grips you from the beginning, holds you in the middle and clutches you hard towards the end – so much so that you lose focus of the world you inhabit and long for the unconditional love that Soon-Ho and Young-Chan have for each other, and the meaningful way in which they engage with the world around them. Poignant without being corny, affecting without being maudlin, Planet of Snail is a cinematic exercise that deconstructs the notions that underline our beliefs about what constitutes perfection, and deepens our appreciation of how wonderful life really is – one touch at a time.

Planet of Snail screened on 23 May 2012 at 9pm, at ACMI Cinemas.

 

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