Rithy Panh, France | Cambodia 2021
Everything will, in fact, not be OK. That is the overarching theme of director Rithy Panh’s latest film, a depressing menagerie of clay dioramas and archival footage where the animals of the world rise up and defeat mankind. Unfortunately, a la Orwell’s Animal Farm, animals are no better than humans and fall into similar totalitarian traps. Various aspects of subjugation are shown, including apparently, masks and vaccinations, which at least to this viewer, was quite disturbing to see trumpeted at a major film festival. But perhaps this sentiment fits with the general opinion of the festival which seemed happy to push forward with an in-person event, even at the height of an outbreak.
To give credit where it is due, on a purely artistic level, EVERYTHING WILL BE OK breaks away from the usual visual mold. With intricately made dioramas, the camera pans across and highlights different points at important moments to give the scene more clarity. It isn’t Claymation, as the figures never move, but the camera does grant each scene a feeling of motion and space. It is an interesting technique, but unfortunately cannot overcome the trite, nonsensical voiceover which sounds at first quite poetic and meaningful, but upon further examination is meaningless. In between the dioramas is the occasional shock of archival footage of various atrocities which only serve to continue the depressing drudgery of the film’s hypothesis about civilization.
Considering Panh’s own history suffering from the Khmer Rouge, it makes sense that the topic of control, genocide, and political subjugation would be a continual theme in his work. However, coming off several years of a pandemic as well as political and economic turmoil, I’m not sure that anyone needs a film as blatantly disheartening as EVERYTHING WILL BE OK. We get it. The world is in shambles. Those who do not see this rather obvious fact are probably not going to be watching confusingly esoteric art films at film festivals. It is easy to point out everything is wrong, but more difficult to be a guide going forward; it is unfortunate that Rithy Panh did not use his creative force for good rather than continued despair.