There are a few projects that impress with their apparent narrative simplicity. In fact, the great asset of ‘Mammoth‘ consists in depicting through an impressive authenticity a simple but profound human emotional mechanism, which pushes viewers to a meditation on the fragility of their own lives. Like a haiku whose essence is the simplicity itself of a poetical aesthetic gesture regarding the contemplation of a natural element or event, director Jiamin Huang approaches the relation between human and death in a delicate and implosive narrative. The mainstay of this short film is not aimed at providing an extreme cinematic experience, but, on the contrary, at capturing with a fine sense for imperceptible emotional nuances the inner process by which the main character becomes aware of her own destiny, while assimilating the announcement of the death of one of her classmates. The basic idea is somewhat inspired by the broad theme of unpredictable destiny (fortuna labilis), but the final product is far from attacking great philosophical themes or hypostasizing abyssal psychologies faced with the imminence of a tragic ending. In fact, the characters of this short film touch the audience precisely by their “normality”, by their lack of behavioural and discursive artificiality, by the banality of their existence they become aware of in the proximity of death. Thus, youth becomes a secondary theme of this project where the director explores any person’s (more or less paradoxical) need for an emotional shock to make them understand the miracle of their own evanescent life.
Chen Jialai is a girl like any other. She is passionate about dance and she has a normal social life. However, the death of a classmate makes her achieve a more subtle understanding of her own life, but she has to choose whether or not this emotional shock will destroy her or make her stronger.
Without going beyond the narrative parameters of the script, the director opts for a temperate filming strategy whose purpose is precisely to render the existential banality, avoiding any counterpoint formula to push the project towards a more dynamic area. Moreover, this absence of dynamism is based on a potentiation of the emotional impact, creating a discrepancy between the silence of the frames and the “invisible” inner noise of the protagonist who, although she seems to lose contact with her own reality, becomes more and more aware of her own destiny. Thus, ‘Mammoth’ is a short film cleverly constructed as an initiatory emotional path, as a tough and necessary lesson on reaching maturity, outlining with a surprising naturalness the way the characters (and, implicitly, each of us) become aware of their / our human condition.
For its sensitivity and for the temperate narrative and cinematic formula that aims to portray the way in which the human being becomes aware of their own destiny, ‘Mammoth’ was awarded with the Film of the Month distinction in the January 2020 edition of TMFF.