Planet Of Snail Takes Viewers on an Inner-Space Odyssey
In one of several centerpieces for the remarkable documentary Planet Of Snail, opening tonight at the Varsity, a young South Korean couple must face off against a burnt-out fluorescent light. Fixing the light would be almost nothing–for most of us, that is. However, the wife, Soon-ho, is not even five feet tall–she suffers from a spinal deformity, never fully explained in the film. And while her husband Young-chan, stands much taller, he is completely blind and largely deaf, deaf enough for a classification of “deaf-blind.”
Young-chan stands on the bed, reaching for the circular bulb which until recently brought forth the light he cannot see. He communicates with his wife mostly through finger-spelling into one or both hands. He also carries a Braille translation machine, but this is not much use when changing a flourescent light.
Everything the two do together takes extra steps, relative to our planet. And everything not laid out in ritual (for example, Soon-ho tapping to her husband at the table which bowls contain which foods) takes extra, extra steps. But the couple never seem to grit their teeth, spit, or kick. Maybe it’s selective editing on the part of the director, Yi Seung-jun, but he’s filmed and cut together a consensual positive attitude, a twosome game for anything.
We never learn Soon-ho’s exact problem, and many other things are never explained, such as family members, childhoods, and money. Young-chan writes poetry, essays, and plays–although since he lost his sight in early childhood, he has never actually seen a play. But this information, at for the purpose of Yi’s carefully considered study, proves inessential. They have each other, they have their friends.
One of Young-chan’s friends, with handicaps very similar to his, recalls over dinner how he took Young-chan to visit Soon-ho for one of the first times. It was very late at night, he remembers. And the rain came down very hard. The two men, with their onboard obstacles, had trouble escaping their blind-school dorm room and hailing a taxi. But they did, and they made it. Everything else flows from that. A film which can make you step back and marvel at the pervasive, almost scary power of ordinary things must be one of the most remarkable films of its year.