"I weave a silence on my lips
I weave a silence into my mind
I weave a silence within my heart"
-- Gaelic prayer from The Ortha Nan Gaidheal
The Calming is showing at the 58th New York Film Festival. See this page to purchase tickets for the virtual screenings on September 19 at 8 pm ET and September 24 at 8 pm ET.
Song Fang's beguiling and idiosyncratic film The Calming is right in sync with those of us who are seeking antidotes to the chaos of our times. This slow-paced drama focuses on the spiritual and creative quest of Lin (Xi Qi), a Chinese film director who after breaking up with her boyfriend decides to travel through Japan, China, and Hong Kong. She travels mostly by train or bus.
Since the camera does not leave her side, we are challenged to adapt ourselves to her meditative walking style, her immersive experiences with the natural world, her visit with a dear friend who lives in Hong Kong with her young child, and a memory-filled stay with her elderly parents.
Lin clearly has no trouble taking this kind of journey mostly by herself. She moves easily from one place to another. She practices the art of long looking and seems to get equal pleasure in the modern architecture of cities and the green fields of rural areas. Is she healing her soul? Is she looking for the subject of her next film? Or is she just enjoying the reports of her senses in the moment?
Her interactions with her best friend and her parents reveal her emotional gifts of being present, deep listening, and connections with others. She helps her mother take care of her father who is recuperating from an illness. The three of them go for a long walk, and we realize she's inherited her gift of just being.
Several of the most magical moments in The Calming take place when Lin is walking slowly through forests. In the 1980s, the Japanese government began to encourage citizens to practice "Forest Bathing." The idea was to help people calm down by immersing themselves in nature. Lin discovers a special place where the trees, the light, and the sound of water all together sooth her senses. Although we can't know for sure, this spot may provide her with the inspiration she has been looking for.