The Case, Wang Fen’s fiction debut, was part of the Yunnan New Film Project, which gave 10 young Chinese female directors the opportunity to show directorial skills. Like the nine other films, Wang Fen filmed The Case on location. Hers is set in Lijiang, a small city at the foot of Snow Mountain in Yunnan.
The Case tells the story of Dasam, a bored middle-aged man who runs a guesthouse together with his wife. One morning, Dasam’s curiosity leads him to fish out a suitcase from a nearby river—a case that is filled with frozen body parts. His efforts to dump the suitcase are complicated by the arrival of a beautiful woman and her husband in the guesthouse.
Dasam’s jealous wife accuses him of having an eye on their guest and threatens to report this to her brother, a police chief. This added pressure makes Dasam’s inept attempts to act as if nothing is going on look even more suspicious.
Though it’s too much to compare Wang Fen to David Lynch, they both share a flair for the mysterious interaction between dreams and reality. The Case, however, is more David Lynch For Dummies than Lost Highway, and putting the pieces of the puzzle together is not that hard.
Wang Fen creates tension with close up shots and uses the unusual sounds of Yunnan music to emphasize Dasam’s pounding heartbeat. The thrilling atmosphere is mixed with a good measure of black humor, especially in the couple’s miscommunication and the exaggerated reactions of Dasam’s hysteric wife.
Aside from a few rookie mistakes, this debut is surprisingly mature. In Chinese with English subtitles, RMB50.
What: The Case
Where: Broadway Cinematheque Moma
When: Saturday, October 13, 4pm; Wednesday, October 31, 7:30pm