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'FUNAN': A Powerful Film

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on August 5, 2020 22:06

2 users

This movie is a striking must-watch.

Funan, a hidden gem on Netflix, stands in defiance to the notion that animation is only for children. Its plot and pacing are maturely crafted, feeling much longer than a mere hour and twenty minutes. It details the lives of a family as they, along with half a million others, are displaced from their Cambodian homes due to the merciless Khmer Rouge revolution in 1975, where Communism spread across the land. It is a bleak, harrowing and grounded film that utilizes animation to its fullest extent for emotional investment and vital story.

As the family is displaced, they lose track of their three-year-old son in the initial departure and are prohibited to go back and search for him. And so begins a harrowing story spanning years as the mother and her family struggle to survive under the unforgiving living conditions and brutal labor of the Communist Party, clinging to the increasingly fragile hope of reuniting with their young son.

Funan accurately portrays the stifling environment in which people had to live under Communist rule as its animation is tightly tied with its emotions and characters. While the subject matter denies the film being aimed at children, the color palette does the same in subtle demonstrations. The artwork in Funan is stunning: a forest's quiet and introspective dark greens surround characters, contrasting the horrors of their situation.

When the mother is feeling bitter, hopeless, and desperate, bloody red skies stretch above, accompanied by billowing clouds of grey smoke. Unshackled from the restrictions of filming in live-action, the film is bursting with vibrant colors that the uninitiated, might, at a glance, prescribe to a friendlier film, but Funan is anything but. The blazing sun hounds them with its heat as they toil away to create rice fields, a slow and back-breaking process. Bluewater gives way to green rows of rice and their laborers crawl agonizingly over the fields, creating their progress like a scar.

Such artwork accurately captures the emotions of the characters — and, more importantly, the emotion that the director wants the audience to feel — to a pinprick level of accuracy. More important than that, though, is that through its brightness Funan demonstrates that terrible things can happen at any time. Dark acts do not need dark scenery to exist: cruelty can, and will, happen anywhere.

Funan is a gripping film that demands investment and respects its audience with a mature, tense and emotional tale well-told. Along with the artwork, a sorrowful and minimal soundtrack accompanies the family's struggles. As it concludes with nothing but a harrowing chorus of crickets and on-screen text detailing the real-life events of the end of the Communist Party and the toll it took to reach, Funan becomes an unforgettable film. Ripe with excellent art, an intense emotional core, and investing characters, this film is a hidden must-see.

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on August 5, 2020 22:06

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