HERE – Review by Diane Carson

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Here chronicles Romanian Stefan and ShuXiu’s encounters.

Elusive and yet intriguing, Here meanders unhurriedly with Romanian construction worker Stefan heading on vacation from his job in Brussels to his home town. Averse to waste, Stefan empties his refrigerator of vegetables that would decay in his absence and cooks up a healthy pot of soup that he’ll deliver in small containers to grateful friends and family.

However, unpredictable events intervene to deflect his intentions and, in fact, his life. For as Stefan waits for his car to be repaired, he discovers Belgian-Chinese woman ShuXiu, an academic, a bryologist, microscopically examining moss. Captivated, he engages with and learns from her, having shared a Chinese restaurant the night before. Voiceover narration by both Stefan and ShuXiu provide glimpses of their innermost thoughts, the real world bumping up against the dream one. ShuXiu, presented first in her lab, forgets names of things, Stefan describes himself as wandering.

At its Lincoln Center screening, Belgian writer/director Bas Devos says he wanted “to invite people to look at the world in a different way,” because, in a world full of distractions, a person must stop and look closely, with a magnifying lens, at the natural world. Devos adds, “And paying attention is the gateway to love.” As ShuXiu, Liyo Gong, an editor and D.J. in her real life, emanates an inviting presence to which Stefan (Liyo Gong) responds, captivated by the unspoken, intuitive connection between them. Their chance meeting may suggest fate. Cinematographer Grimm Vanderkerckhove brings their world to vivid, beautiful life. Boris Debackere’s sound design adds another rich presence, integrating the natural world through bees, birds, rain, wind, and a train which figures in a repeated comment.

Here calms viewers as it invites them to relish important, overlooked beauty. Here is in Dutch, French, Romanian, and Mandarin with English subtitles.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.