IndieLisboa 2023 Review: HERE Finds Solace in Simplicity, Human Touch
Stefan Gota and Liyo Gong star in Belgian filmmaker Bas Devos' breathtaking ode to nature and human connection.
Belgian filmmaker Bas Devos' latest creation, Here, delves into the complexities of human connection in an increasingly isolated world.
This introspective cinematic journey, which won the Best Film award in the Encounters section at the Berlin Film Festival, weaves together a series of serendipitous encounters to underscore the significance of living in the present.
Here follows Stefan (Stefan Gota), a Romanian construction worker in Brussels, as he embarks on a farewell tour of the city, encountering both familiar and unfamiliar faces before returning home.
Stefan prepares soup to empty his fridge and presents it as a gift to the people he meets along the way. Devos skillfully heightens the poetics of everyday realism through seemingly spontaneous and unscripted encounters that unfold within a fluid, loosely-structured narrative.
During his journey, Stefan meets Shuxiu (Liyo Gong), a Belgian-Chinese woman working in her aunt's family restaurant. Initially, their conversation appears to be another accidental interaction within Devos' storytelling design.
The two unexpectedly cross paths again, however, deepening their connection. The director downplays urban landscapes in favor of natural environments, leading Stefan to discover Shuxiu studying moss in a forest. As it turns out, Shuxiu is a Ph.D. candidate researching moss ecosystems.
Despite the growing attraction between the two characters, Devos resists the formulas of conventional relationship dramas and romances, opting instead to explore the delicate, transcultural bond that forms between them.
Drawing inspiration from Ursula K. Le Guin's essay The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, Devos challenges traditional storytelling by examining the intricacies and interconnectedness of human relationships and nature, with moss metaphors subtly woven throughout the film.
Here masterfully blends minimalism and naturalism, thanks to the captivating cinematography of Grimm Vandekerckhove, who also worked on Devos' previous film, Ghost Tropic.
Utilizing a 4:3 format, Vandekerckhove captures artfully composed tableaux of urban and natural environments. The film's unhurried pacing, particularly during scenes set in nature, exudes a meditative, almost ritualistic quality.
The film's docu-fiction approach, combined with its slow-cinema narrative, captures the essence of humanism found in seemingly mundane moments often overlooked in daily life. This theme encourages viewers to appreciate the present and find beauty in the ordinary.
Here presents its message with refreshing honesty and simplicity, subverting conventional wisdom and on-screen romance tropes.
Here is a celebration of human connection in a depersonalized world, finding solace in community, potential romance, and nature. It serves as a cinematic antidote to an era marked by dwindling attention spans and human detachment, offering a poignant reflection on the power of living in the moment.
Cinema Guild will release the film theatrically following its U.S. premiere later this year.