This week I decided that I would review something that I was required to watch in my media theory and criticism class called The Missing Picture. I’d like to say first and foremost that if you have a chance to watch this film, I would highly recommend that you do. You can rent it on Amazon for about $4 (a little more to rent it in HD). This powerful documentary by Rithy Panh is a memoir recounting the events of Panh’s childhood under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The reasoning behind the film’s title, The Missing Picture, has to do with the fact that there is no media evidence of the mistreatment of Cambodian’s under the Khmer Rouge, so Panh decided he was going to try and find that picture by creating these clay figurines to recreate his memories.
I absolutely loved this film. At first, upon hearing that his reenactments were claymation-esque, I was afraid that this film would not do justice to the events it was trying to portray. I was very wrong. The figurines that Panh creates are placed in a setting and filmed, but they never actually move in the frame. It reminded me of going to a museum exhibit. The camera angle, or perspective, changed, but the figures themselves stayed in one place almost like they were a photograph. I think that by creating these ‘pictures’, Panh creates a stoic remembrance of the horrific events that lets the viewer’s experience become both solemn and reflective in a way that mirrors Panh’s own approach to telling his story. Panh also merges some of his clay creations with footage that they were able to find of Cambodia during this period. This plays very well into the idea that Panh is searching for a picture that would verify his own personal experience.
I would have to watch the film a few more times before I felt confident in this analysis, but I believe that his syntax in particular as he is narrating his life creates a very distinct aura and feel within the film. It’s almost poetic in the way that he creates these short but powerful thoughts that sum up a very complex feeling in only a few words. I think, even though the concept of the film is quite sorrowful, that his narration is quite beautiful.
The plot is very self-explanatory so I won’t delve into it. If you love documentary film work, or have a general appreciation for critically acclaimed film work (it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as countless other film awards), you should take the time to watch this incredible film.
As always, if you have any suggestions for things I should watch /review, be sure to leave a comment, or tweet at me or send me a Facebook message (all social media info is on my About page). You can even email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.