×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Exile’

Rithy Panh's essay film uses abstract form to tell of his life under the Khmer Rouge.

With:
Sang Nan, Randal Douc. (French dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5701856/

Cambodian-born filmmaker Rithy Panh once again holds up a mirror to his life under the Khmer Rouge in “Exile,” a free-flowing essay film in which he reflects on his experiences between 1975 and 1979, when he was forced from the capital of Phnom Penh during Pol Pot’s dictatorship. Much of his family died under the regime. Not as accessible, narrative-driven, or provocatively fanciful as Panh’s Oscar-nominated “The Missing Picture” — which re-enacted the story using clay figurines (and won the top prize at Un Certain Regard in 2013) — “Exile” is an altogether more cerebral piece of work, using quotations from Mao, Baudelaire and others to unpack the nature of revolutionary ideology and to explore the gap between Panh’s understandings as a teenager and his perceptions now. It’s must-get programming for venues and festivals that regularly show Chris Marker–style experimental docs, and perhaps for museums. (Whether or not these are Panh’s wishes for it, the movie could easily play as an installation.)

“I experienced exile more intensely than childhood,” says the film’s narrator, who is meant to represent Panh but is not identified formally until the end. The voiceover is read by Randal Douc, while a lone actor, Sang Nan, appears throughout on what look like soundstage sets. The narrator reflects on what it was like to spend adolescence devoted to a single idea — the Kampuchean Revolution — and how slogans that once seemed beautiful to him no longer do. Ghostly visuals contribute to the sense of disorientation and the feeling of time standing still. In some shots, Nan is superimposed over himself; in others, he floats in the air. The ambient drone of Marc Marder’s score helps to create a meditative mood, to slightly lulling effect.

To the extent that “Exile” has a main setting, it’s a single hut whose contents — luggage, a typewriter, fans — change, and gather dust over the years. During discussions of famine, we see a rat being cooked on a bonfire and hear anecdotal mention of men who prized their spoons above their wives. These staged scenes are interspersed with the regime’s propagandized archival footage (“The Missing Picture” hinged on the lack of real photographs), often intercut in counterintuitive or arty ways. In one bit, we see hands wave red books in front of a black-and-white reel. Movies flicker in a bowl of water. Moon imagery increases the sense that the story is being told from a cosmic remove. Some of the most poignant visuals show the hut filled with imagined clothing or family photos on the wall disappearing.

Content-wise, “Exile” is more abstract and arcane than “The Missing Picture.” The narration concerns such ideas as the way that revolutionary ideology feeds on itself, thriving on routine and turning humans into machines. Because what we see is generally meant to represent a single person’s mindscape, the movie avoids some of the representational issues posed by “The Missing Picture,” whose figurines juxtaposed a discomfiting charm against a backdrop of genocide.

At 77 minutes, “Exile” is clearly a specialty item that will probably be received as a footnote to that earlier film. But it is essential to those who have followed Panh’s documentaries.

Film Review: 'Exile'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings), May 13, 2016. Running time: 77 MIN. (Original title: "Exil")

Production: (France-Cambodia) A Catherine Dussart presentation of a CDP, Arte and Bophana Prods. production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Catherine Dussart.

Crew: Directed by Rithy Panh. Screenplay, Panh, with the collaboration of Agnès Sénémaud. Camera (color, HD), Panh, Mesar Prum; editor, Panh; music, Marc Marder; set designers, Mang Sarith, Sang Nan; sound, Eric Tisserand.

With: Sang Nan, Randal Douc. (French dialogue)

More Film

  • Hugh Jackman Sings Happy Birthday to

    Hugh Jackman Leads Massive One-Man Show Crowd in 'Happy Birthday' for Ian McKellen

    Hugh Jackman may have had to skip Ian McKellen’s birthday party to perform his one-man show, “The Man, The Music, The Show,” but that didn’t mean he couldn’t celebrate his “X-Men” co-star’s 80th. Jackman took a moment at the Manchester Arena Saturday to lead the sold-out audience — some 50,000 strong — in a rendition [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Dominates International Box Office With $121 Million

    Disney’s “Aladdin” is showing plenty of worldwide drawing power with $121 million overseas for the weekend, opening in first place in nearly all international markets. The reboot of the 1992 animated classic has received strong family attendance with a significant gain on Saturday and Sunday. China leads the way with an estimated $18.7 million for [...]

  • Aladdin

    Box Office: 'Aladdin' Taking Flight With $105 Million in North America

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” is flying high with an estimated $105 million in North America during the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend. It’s the sixth-highest Memorial Day weekend total ever, topping the 2011 mark of $103.4 million for “The Hangover Part II.” The top total came in 2007, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” [...]

  • Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special

    Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special Mention Winner ‘Monster God’

    CANNES – An exploration of the ramifications of God, “Monster God,” from Argentina’s Agustina San Martín, took a Special Mention – an effective runner’s up prize – on Saturday night at this year’s Cannes Film Festival short film competition. It’s not difficult to see why, especially when jury president Claire Denis own films’ power resists [...]

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content