We are asked: what of the implications of these encounters? What of the markings left by a history: markings that will elude the act of their initial etch? In Truong Minh-Quý’s follow-up to his debut feature The Tree House — a postcolonial science fiction docudrama, utilizing the anonymity of a forest in its reevaluation of an ethnographic gaze — he continues this exploration of what such an expansive greenery might offer, revisiting an inquiry into such spaces and the marks made bare within hidden crevices. Les Attendants concerns itself with two surveys of the ephemeral: a couple, two older white men in the pursuit of cruising, and a younger black man caught in migratory stasis. Transient observations testify of imprints left and barely noticed: engravings of a limb dragged through dirt, the chipped bark of trees, small fractures the size of a fingernail. For a short work, there is a clear understanding that in dealing with such fleeting dynamics, it’s in stilted gestures that a certain poetry can find purchase and create a distancing effect so that we might be able to see not the interiority of what is happening before our eyes, but rather the elusiveness of the exterior, the blankness of these two narrative confrontations that will ultimately persist.
This forest is one echoing with its own past. These two stories, and the happenstance of their momentary entanglement, are but the pangs of reverberation. Here, it seems that Troung’s curious eye is directed toward the suggestion of an inherent benefit: he asks, in the cacophony of history, whose narrative do we come to hear? Whose perspective comes to be considered? These are not questions that should incite much provocation, as such ideas are ones we already find ourselves headily contending with, particularly within this ethos. But in the specific, almost haiku-esque verse with which Troung articulates these notions, there is an idiosyncrasy both intimate and beautiful. Much like his feature, it’s in the aesthetic ruptures of an intentional discontinuity — here, in an estrangement cultivated by A.) a lack of context surrounding the two presented narratives and B.) the film’s conclusion, as a reflexive intervention (a surprise best left vague here) bluntly cuts us off from the telling of a marginal history — where the voice of this emerging artist is most affectionately heard. To sum up this dense, intriguing work with an apt platitude: an exciting work by an exciting young filmmaker.
Published as part of Berlin Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 5.