×

‘Ondog’ Director Wang Quan’an Is at Home on European Festival Circuit

Chinese filmmaker Wang Quan’an is a man in control of himself and his narrative, and at ease on the European festival circuit. His “Ondog” is an early front-runner for a trophy at the Berlin Film Festival, where it played in competition Friday.

The film, the tale of an encounter between a very young cop and an older herdswoman nicknamed Dinosaur, takes place out on the vast Mongolian plains. It is handsome, slow and quietly moving.

“This film depicts the enormity of nature, the wisdom of nature, and transcends human morals. Dinosaur has transcendent wisdom,” Wang said at a Berlin press event on Friday. There he unpacked the film’s plot lines, and elucidated its none-too-difficult metaphors and allusions.

Dinosaur is not just the character’s name; a giant fossilized egg (or “Ondog” in the Mongolian language) is a gift that the gauche cop gives the herder as they share a post-coital cigarette. He has also given her another gift by fertilizing Dinosaur’s own egg.

Wang is fluent in the niceties of the film festival circuit. “I was not so motivated by filmmaking in recent years. But this film is my parting gift for Dieter,” he said of Dieter Kosslick, the departing head of the Berlinale. “My happiness for him is tinged with sadness. Dieter is a classic image of the Berlinale.”

Wang has much to be thankful for at Berlin. His “Tuya’s Marriage” was a Golden Bear winner, and his “Apart Together” and “White Deer Plains” also played in the official selection.

His new film plays perfectly in the European art-house register. It ranges from languor to philosophy, is largely played by earthy non-professionals, and includes footage of the birth of a real calf. Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” also makes a surprising intrusion.

“The film’s minimalist technique shows only small movements on screen, but a lot happening,” said Wang, who once again turned to a European cinematographer to deliver his festival-ready package.

Having previously worked with Germany’s Lutz Reitemeier, Wang teamed with young French cinematographer Aymerick Pilarski to deliver “Ondog’s” breathtaking vistas and the cramped interiors of yurts. “In Mongolia you can see someone coming 100 kilometers away,” Wang said. Pilarski’s Chinese-language skills, which he developed while learning his craft in Beijing, also helped him work quickly with Wang on a hurried 16-day shoot.

Asked why there are so many Chinese films in the festival – Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” and Wang Xiaoshuai’s “So Long, My Son” also play in Berlin’s main competition – Wang did not miss a beat. “We are just three old friends who have come together to create an unforgettable finale to Dieter’s reign,” he said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rounds

    Sarajevo Film Review: 'Rounds'

    Five features (plus a scattering of documentaries) into his career, leading Bulgarian writer-director Stephan Komandarev has resisted cultivating a clear thematic or stylistic throughline to his oeuvre. Yet his latest, the overnight police patchwork “Rounds,” feels surprisingly close to quintessential, pulling as it does plot points, structural models and tonal switches from his previous films [...]

  • Travis Scott Surprises Fans With Netflix

    Travis Scott Surprises Fans With Netflix Documentary Reveal, Pop-Up in Houston

    Travis Scott just revealed his new Netflix documentary in the most organic way possible: a social media post to his 18.5 million followers on Instagram. The photo consisted of him holding a series of VHS tapes, which turns out to be the trailer for his forthcoming documentary on Netflix titled “Look Mom I Can Fly.” [...]

  • Overcomer

    Film Review: 'Overcomer'

    No matter the setting or circumstances, the solution to every dilemma found in Christian Evangelical films is getting closer to God. That certainly holds true with regards to “Overcomer,” the latest bit of bigscreen proselytizing by writer-director-star Alex Kendrick (“War Room,” “Courageous”). The story of a high school basketball coach who’s forced to take over [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Inside the Spider-Man Split: Finger-Pointing and Executive Endgames

    Spider-Man’s neighborhood has been decidedly unfriendly this week. A private and contentious battle over the onscreen future of the beloved Marvel superhero has spilled out into the public square over the past few days. After making nice for two wildly successful films, Sony Pictures, which holds the licensing rights to the Marvel character, will go [...]

  • Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch for 2019

    Variety has announced its 10 Actors to Watch for 2019, an honor the publication has bestowed since 1998. Past honorees include many future Oscar winners and nominees, such as Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o and Melissa Leo. This year’s honorees will be feted in the Oct. 27 issue of [...]

  • August Maturo

    Film News Roundup: August Maturo to Star in Horror Movie 'Slapface'

    In today’s film news roundup, August Maturo gets a starring role and “Death of Me” and “Fatale” find homes. CASTING “Girl Meets World” star August Maturo has been cast as the lead character in the upcoming indie horror feature, “Slapface.” Maturo will play a boy who deals with the loss of his mother by creating [...]

  • Taron Egerton, Lucy Boynton to Star

    Taron Egerton, Lucy Boynton to Star in Virtual Reality Project 'Glimpse'

    Taron Egerton and Lucy Boynton will star in “Glimpse,” a new virtual reality experience that will be unveiled at the Venice Film Festival. Written and directed by Benjamin Cleary and VR creator Michael O’Connor, “Glimpse” will be entered in the Venice Virtual Reality Interactive showcase. It’s set in the imaginative mind of a heartbroken panda, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content