Bedridden: Story of misunderstanding

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G.Battulga as Bedridden
G.Battulga as Bedridden

You can hear a young person saying, “I don’t watch Mongolian films because they are bad” or “Mongolians are way too far from making good films” here and there. Mongolian films’ local reputation is currently very low, with few filmmakers and companies dominating the market. However, “Bedridden” by S.Byamba is a terrific masterpiece that made innovative steps in Mongolian filmmaking, blowing away the biases. The black and white film tried to explore the innermost emotions that people can feel and convert them into separate stories that connect masterfully at the end. Ultimately, it succeeded.
The film was created based on a novella with the same name, written by renowned writer G.Ayurzana, with the novella itself regarded as a new phenomenon in Mongolia’s literature upon its release. Fans of the author and film lovers have been waiting for the film since 2017, expecting it to be “different”, and the filmmakers didn’t disappoint.

The main story of the film is about a writer who is going through a career crisis as publishing companies deny printing his book, which led him to an existential crisis and he decides to go bedridden. His girlfriend Tsolmon and father take care of him as they respect his choice to spend his life in his bed. He constantly tries to write short stories but can’t finish any of them. During his self-discovery journey, he meets and has deep conversations with several people, including Tsolmon, his parents, and a computer technician. The writer’s younger sister Namuu is closest to him. Namuu becomes the main reason for Tsolmon and the writer’s breakup as she finds Tsolmon has been meeting with another man after stalking her. It turned out to be a mere misunderstanding, but the couple decides to break up nonetheless. After the breakup, the writer decides to leave his bed and goes on a real journey.

SCREENPLAY

The novella itself is not structured in a linear fashion. Its timeline is dispersed as it tells different stories of different characters, happening almost in parallel with each other. The characters almost randomly tell stories about their sexual lives in the novella and the film followed the same format. It is the first thing to compliment on the directing. The director didn’t want to change how the characters just start talking about what they experienced and how they entered sexual life just to logically correct it. This kind of art films don’t really focus on logic but on the storytelling and concept.

The directorial elements in the film were the main attraction. Mongolian films don’t get built by directing, but by star casts and screenplays. Director S.Byamba used music and camera movement to the fullest. Even the transitions between scenes were enjoyable and peaking the audience’s interests.

The director added “Rollercoaster” scenes to the film to symbolize the emotions of characters. The rollercoaster can be seen as a character as it was almost acting. However, the symbolism worked for only half of the audience, and some of them were confused by it. It was a creative and whole new element in Mongolian film, and all we can do is to hope that the local audience will adapt to this kind of directing.

The decision to make the film in black and white was a genius move. The whole atmosphere and rhythm of the film were melancholic. Most impressing thing about the color was in the last scene of the film when the main character rides a bus and goes to the countryside for a new journey. The film lingered a long and empty road for about a minute and the slow shift to the sky worked perfectly. The sky gradually gains its natural blue color as it suggests that all the sadness and agony of the protagonist, which led to his existential crisis, was now over.

SEXUALITY

Mongolian films don’t really explore sexuality in film often and when they do, they fail. Once in a while, some filmmakers attempt to make an erotic film, but lacks a good story and there’s too much focus on the intercourse. “Bedridden” is not even an erotic film and barely had erotic scenes. But it perfectly “channeled” the intensity of eroticism through conversations and wordless interactions between characters.

The scene with the computer technician and freckled girl shows how women can want a man without falling in love. The girl calls a guy that she barely knows to her home and has a casual encounter. By this scene, the director and the author tried to shed the stereotypical thought that only men use women as sexual objects. The scene was the best part of the film as it showed a different kind of relationship between a man and a woman, yet almost everyone can relate to it.

Another innovative step that the film took in Mongolian filmography the scene with the protagonist’s mother. His mother left her husband when the protagonist was a child for a woman that she knew for long. Mongolian films show this kind of homosexual relationship based on their homophobic perspective or display too put too much emphasis on sex scenes. On the other hand, foreign films visualize the love of two men or two women in a more sensitive fashion. “Bedridden” followed the correct path when they describe the love between the mother and her lover.

Every character’s sexual life is shown in the film and every single one of them seemed relatable to ordinary people. One-sided love, complete but untouchable love, a relationship that was ruined by misunderstanding, and the unlovable love are all shown in under two hours.

CASTING

The most important thing in an art film, especially in films with full of characters with a lot of inner conflicts, is the casting. The cast of “Bedridden” deserves applause as almost every actor in the film nailed their part.

Up-and-coming actor G.Battulga
showed Mongolian filmmakers that he can be the top choice for a complex character. Recently, Mongolian male actors have been becoming indistinguishable to one another. Tall, handsome and muscular actors are mainly being cast as the lead. It can be explained by the lack of variety in scripts. Mongolian film scripts are all about actions and it fits the actors. However, when a filmmaker tries to cast for a melancholy and thoughtful characters like the writer in “Bedridden”, they will struggle to
find a suitable actor. G.Battulga is one of the few actors who can pull off this kind of character.

The film was the debut of T.Ariunchimeg, who played Tsolmon. The newcomer portrayed the supporting role nicely. Her balance between dramatic and intellectual performance was top notch.

B.Doljinsuren’s Freckled Girl was beautiful and unique. The young actress portrayed the playful and spirited girl perfectly and the chemistry between her and S.Bilguun, who played computer technician, was perfect. According to the audience, the pair were the “cutest” things about the sad story of a man who was “dumped” by his loved one. The two had very short screen time, and even shorter dialogues. However, their eyes and body language expressed their feelings succinctly.

B.Oyun-Erdene played Namuu as her debut role and nailed the part of a rebellious teenager. Her scenes were heavily emphasized with music and she synced her acting to the music of the film. Her acting was natural and even the smallest emotions were masterfully portrayed.

Overall, director S.Byamba didn’t disappoint fans who had long awaited his film. The directorial elements, symbolism, music, cinematography, and casting were on point. However, the film is not for everybody. People were even leaving the cinema in the middle of the film. It can be seen as the fate of art films, but “Bedridden” deserved more attention. Some people say that they didn’t understand the film at all and was waiting for action. It’s sad that people don’t want to or are not able to think deeply and can’t recognize a real gem when they see one.

Khantushig B

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