Video essayist turned writer-director-editor Kogonada and writer-director-producer Joanna Hogg are on the helm of two of Cannes 2021’s most anticipated options. The previous‘s architecturally and visually gorgeous Columbus took the cinephile world by storm in 2017. So, it’s solely pure that his second movie, After Yang, has a excessive bar to clear. The follow-up is a few racially numerous household sooner or later. When their “techno-sapien” helper abruptly, mysteriously malfunctions, they start a meditative investigation of his AI recollections. As for Hogg, her newest is The Memento Half II, the awaited follow-up to, nicely, you understand.
Partly one, launched in 2019, we discovered Julie (Honor Swinton-Byrne) learning to develop into a director, embroiled in a heroin-trodden relationship characterised by anxiousness and duplicity. Like many different viewers, I completed The Memento wanting extra out of Julie’s improvement as a filmmaker. However I used to be narrow-sighted, unaware of Hogg’s scope. In The Memento Half II, Julie seems her trauma within the eye by deigning to adapt the occasions of half one into her first function.
In different phrases, we now watch Julie make The Memento, albeit a distinct model. But it surely’s the devastating context of getting witnessed what occurred partially one that enables us to raised perceive Julie’s directorial improvement in all its ache, magnificence, and complexity. And it conveys the feat she takes upon herself in making an attempt to inform her story within the first place, a lot much less by way of sincere, tasteful, and mature artistry.
Kogonada and Hogg’s movies have little in frequent when it comes to plot, however they share a lot in theme and strategy. Each movies are affected person, well-observed, and primarily involved with individuals making an attempt to maneuver on within the aftermath of a confounding life change — two very totally different variations of dropping somebody. After Yang addresses that loss by way of reminiscence whereas The Memento Half II addresses it by way of filmmaking and creating artwork. Each gracefully acknowledge the arduous balancing act between self-reflection and communal modes of therapeutic.
To take it one step additional, each movies are distinguished of their distinguished, lush depictions of nature as a supply of therapeutic and development. Be it futuristic floral preparations on a courtyard wall or a bucolic British pasture, nature serves an analogous position in each. Specifically, in the best way nature helps to create a ruminative, restorative ambiance on display screen.
The Memento Half II opens on a tranquil area of white flowers gently waltzing within the wind. The picture is luxuriant and completely faint. An early morning fog hangs low, draping the shot in a gauzy aesthetic that carries by way of the movie and units a delicate temper for the lighter-toned colour palette to return. Lavender, peach, rose, daffodil, cornflower, cream, white, silver, and gold – colours that characterize Julie, her emotions, what’s occurring round her, and her inside self.
The inexperienced of leaves, stems, grass, and vines is diverse and often a bit darker in tone, nevertheless it’s additionally crucial colour in terms of evoking a way of therapeutic, inexperienced traditionally and thematically related to renewal, freshness, and development. It’s essentially the most current colour within the nature imagery, nevertheless it’s not essentially the most distinguished. As an alternative, it acts like a impartial canvas that enables the extra delicate colours to pop.
Taking this opening shot for instance and fascinated about it when it comes to character, theme, and plot, the overgrown inexperienced of the character imagery is Julie’s willingness to confront her ache and be taught from it. The inexperienced is her inventive self-discipline, her dedication to develop, her platform, her supply of power. It’s the chance she’s given herself. And from that chance, from that inexperienced area, surrounded by that boundless supply of pure power, she will be able to flower into one thing new and entire and exquisite, rising tall above the verdant prairie grass to bop within the glint of the solar.
We sit with the shot for some time earlier than we start the story. And we return to it, or photographs prefer it, typically in The Memento Half II. Even once we’re not in literal nature, vegetation come within the type of wallpapers, work, and different inside and exterior design. The prominence and significance of nature imagery is Hogg’s means of maintaining the theme of development current and fluid throughout the narrative, and it really works wonders.
Kogonada employs the identical method by way of a a lot darker colour palette. And maybe synthetic vegetation (it’s laborious to inform, however the future setting suggests it). However that doesn’t diminish the impact of viridescence in After Yang. If there’s one shot parallel to the opening shot of The Memento Half II, it will be the brilliant, floral shot of Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) speaking to Jake (Colin Farrell).
At any time when she speaks to him in individual, she’s centered within the body at a medium distance, shoulders lining the underside of the display screen with a bit house above her head. Round her is a paradisal glow of blown-out gentle and a prismatic show of flowers akin to the bio-botany explosion of colour stretched throughout the pool wall in Annihilation. It’s a saintly depiction and correct for one of the form, therapeutic, and temperate characters you’ll ever meet. But it surely doesn’t carry the identical thematic weight because the Memento Half II shot. It’s simply essentially the most noteworthy and repeated.
There isn’t one shot in After Yang that captures all of it. In constructing his futuristic, minimally seen world, Kogonada finds methods to insert vegetation in unusual locations that make sense. For instance, nobody within the close to future drives themselves. It’s extra like Minority Report, the place self-driving vehicles transfer individuals round. Nonetheless, in Minority Report, these vehicles drive exterior. Right here, everybody travels by way of tunnels, which suggests little alternative for utilizing nature as a thematic and aesthetic enhance.
So, Kogonada seemed on the world round him and made a wise, inventive alternative. In the identical means that many people have loaded up on home vegetation after coming to grasp their day by day contributions to well-being after a yr and a half inside, Kogonada masses the self-driving vehicles in After Yang up with vegetation.
At any time when they’re within the automotive, a row of shrubbery sits behind them because the smooth, Fallen Angels-esque inexperienced gentle of the tunnel rushes easily throughout the floor of the window, including to the verdurous tone. They’re often pensive within the automotive, making an attempt to grasp, making an attempt to heal. Inside at night time, Kogonada shoots their dwelling within the warmest, dimmest golden gentle you’ll be able to think about, complimented by uncooked wooden and bronzed metals. However vegetation are nonetheless all over the place of their home. Hanging from ceilings, latched onto the partitions, unfold throughout surfaces, tucked into wood cubbies.
Some shades are nearer to black than a recognizable inexperienced, however the shadowed colour all the time comes by way of in After Yang. We’re reminded that no matter setting or brightness, that Kyra, Jake, and Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) carry the identical want, self-discipline, and persistence to maneuver past the helper’s malfunction and develop to grasp themselves and one another higher within the course of. As a tri-racial household, studying to grasp one another has additionally clearly been a significant theme all through their lives collectively.
Possibly it’s a renewed give attention to vegetation born out of the pandemic, possibly it’s only a coincidence, or possibly a deeper dive into movie historical past would reveal plant-as-healing-agent as one in every of cinema’s extra common themes. However regardless of the case, Cannes is teaming with gorgeously shot grass, vegetation, petals, bushes, meadows, and flowers. It’s not simply After Yang and The Memento Half II. The movie I simply acquired out of, Eva Husson’s Mothering Sunday, had the identical emphasis on vegetation in its cinematography, as soon as once more to convey therapeutic from traumatic, unpredictable occasions.
The prominence of it says one thing concerning the alluring soulfulness of nature and the deeply therapeutic relationship we have now with it. And on the similar time, the prominence and ensuing sense of thriller and awe guarantee we received’t ever absolutely perceive why or how we have now this connection. We are able to speak about nature’s organic advantages or its enigmatic aesthetic marvel, however the non secular, existential respite it supplies stays one thing we will solely expertise.