K – New Directors/New Films

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K
Directed by Darhad Erdenibulag & Emyr ap Richard
88 minutes, China, 2015
North American Premiere
Sat 03/21/2015 3:45 PM
Walter Reade Theater, NYC

K may have been conceived with no geographic/ethnographic location in mind, as the film makers state, but anyone familiar with Nicholas Roerich’s 1920s Altai-Himalaya: A Travel Diary will appreciate this film’s brilliant association of petty officialdom in China’s provinces with Franz Kafka’s lunatic bureaucracy.

Land surveyor (Bayin) in K
Land surveyor (Bayin) in K

The New Directors/New Films synopsis provides a good starting point:

“Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel The Castle is relocated to present-day Inner Mongolia, and the translation is startlingly seamless. Land surveyor K (Bayin) arrives in a frontier village, and soon discovers that his summons was a clerical error. Taking a job as a school janitor, K seeks an audience with the high-level minister he believes will resolve the situation, but cannot gain access to the castle where the local government is based. Intermittently aided by a barmaid and two hapless minions, K finds his efforts at clarification stymied by local hostility and administrative chaos alike…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Shot entirely in natural light, and with an effective soundtrack featuring Western honky-tonk music and John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, K evokes the claustrophobic residences of The Shining, Barton Fink and The Tenant while introducing entirely new tropes of transient paranoia.

A selection of Berlinale’s Forum. The big mystery for me is why this movie hasn’t yet found a distributor for North American theatrical release.