Directors – Te Wei, Ma Kexuan, Yan San Chun – 1988 – China – Cert. N/C U – 20m
Against a backdrop of mountains, rivers and the sea, a boy learns to play zither from an old master – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th
A bearded man carries a package through a mountainous, water-strewn landscape. A boy gives him a ride on his boat. When the man collapses after leaving the boat, the boy takes him to his house. The package turns out to be a zither. The man plays. The boy learns and is soon playing skilfully.
The plot here, such as it is, is really just an excuse to move the camera around incredible ink and watercolour landscapes and, in places, move objects such as the two main characters, the boy’s boat, fish in the river or water trickling down a mountainside in a style which fits with that. That’s an admirable aim and the film succeeds in spades.
There are static marks on the screen which you know to be merely brush strokes, yet they convey, for example, an outcrop of rock visible in the snow or a small islet surrounded by water.
And yet, you are watching moving drawings (or paintings) in ink and watercolour – which is drawn (or rather painted) animation at its purest. You marvel as, for example, a boat moves through water where the water consists of nothing but white space.
As if all this weren’t rough, once someone plays the zither the most beautiful music drifts out of the soundtrack. While it’s traditional and Chinese in nature, this writer couldn’t help but remember Ry Cooder’s incredible slide guitar work accompanying Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984). The score here boasts comparable musicianship and is just as effective at bringing a unique combination of images and music to the screen.
There is no dialogue whatsoever, but it scarcely seems to matter. Feeling From Mountain And Water is both transcendent and awe-inspiring.
Feeling From Mountain And Water is available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th.