Directed by Rouchen Zhao | Review by Moumita DebA passionate emotional experience and a conjoined vision of intimate and public life, The Bunny conveys that the relentless conflict between nature’s creation and man’s insatiable desire to defy its hierarchy is only an infinitesimal aspect of this vast cosmic creation called life. It’s also, incidentally, a decisive repudiation of one of the most enduring film-critical shibboleths: that….” straightforward storytelling is antithetical to directorial originality.”
At times it is bizarrely fascinating to see arrogant scientists being revealed as monsters even as the child prodigy unleashes his complex, vulnerable humanity. Sadly, the intellectual sparks that do fly burn brightly but only briefly. The need to show that various disasters befall people when they try to play God is something that has been part of horror cinema almost from the beginning and has been strongly projected in this film. As early as the 1910 version of Frankenstein, cinema has relished in showing us how things can go massively tits up when we mess around with the forces of nature.
The dramatic clarity and psychological acuity with which Zhao places his characters at the center of an emotional tug-of-war is worth a watch. Though The Bunny runs barely ten minutes sixteen seconds, it packs an epic’s worth of expressive detail, imaginative incident, emotional variety, intensity, and aesthetic purgation. The tight bond between the movie’s profusion of closely observed details, fleeting moments of intimate poignancy, grand dramatic passions, and social insight is nearly fractal in its unity, yet it also evokes a sense of spontaneity and artistic discovery at every stage of the cinematic process. Zhao’s approach to every aspect of cinematic form and composition is as distinctive and freely inventive as is his renewal of the movie’s classical subject.
The cinematographer does a great job in keeping the camera active, alert, and impulsive, relying on shifts in and out of focus to fuse characters and their surroundings. What’s more, the fragmentary succession of images creates an overwhelming confluence of tumultuous emotions. There are occasional flashes of memory and imagined events, whimsical yet fierce fantasy, centered on the peculiarity of trying to portray a character—a species—remote from one’s own. The overall construction of the film, which is both meticulously calculated and ecstatically free-form, seems to replicate the play of one’s mind—both the drama of the protagonist’s consciousness and its powerful subconscious overtones and undercurrents.
The elements of The Bunny – dramatic, thematic, textual, visual—fit together not with the deterministic rigidity of a puzzle to be solved but with the wonder of a constellation. The force that holds its points together is a performance itself and this performance is truly distinctive, varied, and extreme in its expressive array and technical power.
And so what we get, finally, is a movie of attitudes. This is a window on the soul of a boy who genuinely loves the natural life and soulfully lives for it every day.
This is a lovable film that continues to resonate for long after it is over and makes you wish it would never end. The best about it is how the relationship between the characters evolves in such an honest way, yet with a lot of melancholy.
The Bunny is a more modern take on this, but while it may serve as a warning about the dangers of genetic engineering, it also serves as a warning on how horror films with good ideas can somehow end up in a sordid way when the sinister ambition grows out of control.
The Bunny is no masterpiece but its strong storytelling has a robust, deadpan insistence on its own apparent seriousness. It may well become a cult favorite yet it fails to take the issues of science ethics overly seriously, and it certainly doesn’t belabor its audience with anything as sanctimonious as a moral, with breakthrough experimentation on biotech demi-human crossbreed!
Delivering a good balance of anguish, uncertainty and fulfillment, all well conveyed, The Bunny cements Zhao’s status as one of the key directors of the contemporary era.
Moumita is a Kolkata based independent filmmaker and film critic. She holds a post- graduation degree in English literature from Jadavpur University. Reading novels of a wide range of authors of all genres from classic to contemporary has always been Moumita’s passion and calling. She also takes a strong liking in playing the Spanish guitar & has participated in quite a few concerts. Moumita has done her certification course in Cinematography, Video Editing and Filmmaking.