Loess Plateau was once home to China’s most fertile agricultural fields, but
the Party has not been a wise steward of the land. Desertification and deforestation
have greatly reduced the region’s yields. Unfortunately, that only makes a
purchased wife’s hardscrabble life even more difficult in Dutch-based Chinese
animator Yi Zhao’s haunting short film Löss
which screens during the 2016 Ottawa International Animation Festival.
was sold into a loveless marriage with her brutish subsistence farmer husband.
They have been unable to conceive children, leaving him resentful and her
without the benefit of more loving company. Her only pleasures are the mud
dolls she creates—but they are also a weakness he can exploit to control her.
It is a grim domestic life, but unfortunately it is not her only worry.
many ways, Löss is like an
avant-garde animated analog of The
Burning Bed, but it depicts an even more dire situation. Simply leaving her
husband is not really an option for Yulin, because where we she go? Frankly,
she is just as tethered to their crops as he is, which leaves little room for clichéd
of dark foreboding, the deceptively simple style of Yi Zhao’s animation aptly reflects
the meanness of Yulin’s life and the depths of her emotional angst. His visuals
radiate an ominous power that defy comparison. This is not an easy film to
watch. It not only forces viewers to witness some terrible events, it clearly
implies they happen on an almost daily basis. Yet, the integrity of his evocative
aesthetic and the unsparing narrative are remarkably impressive.
Without question, Löss will be too intense for youthful audiences. It will also
deeply trouble those who prefer their animation saccharine and simplistic.
However, real connoisseurs will embrace the film precisely because of its
visceral vision. Highly recommended for discerning cineastes, Löss screens this Thursday (9/22) and
Sunday (9/25) as part of the Short Film
Competition 2 programming block at this year’s Ottawa International
Labels: Animated films, Ottawa International Animation '16, Short Films