By Sascha Krieger
Öndög (Competition / Mongolia / Director: Wang Quan’an)
At night, a car drives through the wide Mongolian grasslands. The camera is pointed ahead through the windshield, focusing on the small patch of light the headlights make. A herd of wild horses appears and passes. Suddenly a naked body. This is how Wang Quan’an’s (who won the 2007 Golden Bear with Tuya’s Wedding) new film starts. An 18-year-old policeman is left to guard the body, a local herdswoman keeps him company. A fateful night ensues which will have consequences, small an large. The modern and the ancient meet in the middle of nowhere. For a moment, before they part again. Not much happens in these mesmerising widescreen images Wang paints. Or everything. The horizon is low, the sky oversized. Remnants of the modern world remain far away. People sit leaning on a sitting camel, streetlamps are parked in the middle of nowhere, headlamps move in darkness to the rhythm of sex, people move into the frame and out, small, meaningless, or they occupy the whole of it. Öndög is little more than a series of carefully composed images, tableaux of loneliness and independence. But what images they are, what is in them even when thy seem empty. As the woman takes her life into her hands, connects herself with her land and its myths, the wide nothing becomes a space of opportunity just as the plain drabness of the town appears like a cage to her stony-faced one-time lover. Life, death and everything in-between. A masterpiece.