What a lovely surprise I received in my Facebook inbox last week! Suranga Katugampala provided me with a short film of his, which acts as a form of test for his upcoming feature film. Aesthetically, his work looks more than promising and I thoroughly enjoyed the 18 minutes in his world.
Suranga is from Sri Lanka, but lives in Italy and, according to him, he wants to capture the current situation of the young in today’s Europe. There is some stunning cinematography involved. Simple, but very effective. The director makes us watch a young man in each of his long takes. Rarely does he move. The young man (not necessarily always the same one) is static more often than not, or moves only sporadically. Given the subject matter of the film, this non-movement of the character seems plausible; today’s drive for capitalism is a trap for young people. Capitalism leaves little breathing space for people, but especially for young people, who are only just beginning to build their lives, wanting it to be better than their parents’, perhaps.
The way Suranga frames the characters strongly reminded me of Tsai Ming-liang’s Walker series. One scene, in particular, stands out: a young man, bare-chested, curled up on the stairs of a subway station. He’s in the centre of the frame. The camera angle is high. It looks as though the young man is suffering. Is it because of increasing poverty perhaps? Regardless of the possible reason, no one cares. Just as people hurry past Tsai’s monk in Journey to the West, so do people walk past Suranga’s young man without so much as a glance at him. Their behaviour then led me to think about German poem called Städter, which describes the situation in big cities – so many people, so much loneliness. Everyone fights for himself.
After about half of the short film, Suranga begins to insert experimental features, which have a striking effect in that they disrupt the slowness induced by long takes. Superimpositions, a quick succession of cuts, a haunting and threatening hammering in the soundtrack. A long shot shows a painting or a sort of graffiti on a wall. It took me a while to find the young man in the shot, but there he was: positioned under the drawn hoof of a seemingly wild horse. Is the wild horse capitalism? The image is, to me, the strongest in the entire film and gives you a taste of Suranga’s talent and goal. He plays with us, he disorientates us – for instance by putting the camera on its head, which really turned my head round! – and in doing so he turns his film into a complex experience for the viewer.
There is something eerie about the end, with its archival footage projected onto the young man’s back while he covers in front of a screen. It’s a quiet, powerful ending, which made me want more. If this short film was a test, then I certainly can’t wait for the feature film!
Suranga has uploaded his short film Sun of the lovely capitalism on YouTube and I’m pleased to share it with you. Please click here.