The Long Walk was my introduction to Laotian cinema and, largely, my introduction to Laotian culture in general. It is the third feature film by Laos’ first female filmmaker, Mattie Do and stars the talents of Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy, Noutnapha Soydara, Vilouna Phetmany, Chansamone Inoudom & Por Silatsa. The film centres around an ageing Laotian man who has the ability to see into the past; specifically into the lives of the deceased. It is a culturally and theme-heavy film that both spotlights Laotian religious beliefs and its identity and role in a quickly modernizing world.
I really had no idea what to expect going into the film, which often makes for the most interesting of viewing experiences. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, and I do not mean that in a patronizing way. The Long Walk is gorgeous in every sense of the word. This does not feel like a passion project or an indie production, but rather something more—something powerful and personal. The production value is seemingly on par with, if not better than similar films from countries more renowned for their film making. The acting, too, is far above what I imagined and the cast is incredibly talented.
The film’s colourization follows the complimentary blue-orange combination that I have been seeing often lately, but it definitely works for the atmosphere. This tint seems to be used more often when dealing with the recently dead or passed on, not in the usual aggressive hauntings when a filmmaker wants to try and scare us but rather the sad, sombre stories of those with unfinished business yet on our world, as is the case here. Colours aside, the cinematography is simply gorgeous, with rural Loas taking centre stage—all of its nature and wonder a veritable playground for our young filmmaker; one she makes absolute use of.
While very complex, the story remains surprisingly simple to follow. I realize that this may sound like something of a contradiction, but films that use time travel always run the risk of creating some kind of paradoxical situation that oftentimes becomes overly convoluted. This is not the case here, where we seem to follow more of the Back to the Future ruleset but with characters from past and present actually able to remember that they had interacted before, although this does seem to change the future in unexpected ways. Either way, it made for a clever twist on what I suppose would be the séance or medium sub-genre of the horror flick.
And is it really even a horror film? It is almost too serene, calm, and loving to be really classified as a horror. Nor is it really science fiction even though we have definite classic elements thereof. The Long Walk really is more of its own thing and while it borrows bits and pieces from films past, it stands on its own two feet as a triumphant something else. In whichever genre you’d personally give it a home, it would definitely stand tall and proud amongst the best of its peers.
The time travel subplot is also paralleled against the second theme of the old versus the new, represented on the one hand by the stark differences in technology visited throughout the generations in which our protagonist finds himself. One thing which remains seemingly unaffected is the homestead around which the story evolves, remaining timeless and mostly unaltered by the ravages of atrophy sans for the changes the protagonist himself makes by meddling with the literal ghosts of the past.
I could sit here and ramble on about how the score is both serene and calming but haunting and unnerving depending on the mood of the moment, about how our characters grow and evolve through their interaction in the then and the now, about how the scenes are both ethereal and beautiful and then suddenly terrifying. The film is all of this and more and one could easily write essays on the cultural aspects, religious connotations, themes and imagery, etc., etc. This really is a work of art and a masterful piece of cinema—my one criticism being that the film does run long. There are very few characters and very few locations and while all of the elements are well used, I feel that the film could have left a lot of cuttings on the editing room floor and still have left a similar impression with as big an impact.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Trailer and poster below. The Long Walk will be released on Digital Download from Feb 28 and available for pre-order here. Trailer and artwork below.
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