Directed by Yi Shi | Reviewed by Samiksha Periwal
‘The Heart Sutra’ is a short film based on the ideas of religion, afterlife and existentialism. It is portrayed in the form of a fantasy story about life and soul redemption. This idea has been explained through the lens of a middle-aged painter who travels all around his country, talking to different people and gaining more perspective on the essence of living and expressing his ideas through his art work. This film delves deep into the spiritual side of your thinking and requires you to have a calm mind while you enjoy the beauty of this particular piece of art. This film is as serene and meaningful as the title.
The central idea of the film remains very abstract and open to interpretation for a very long time while you are watching it. It is a slow-paced movie with multiple layers added on to core meaning. It begins with a saying from one of the religious scriptures about life. A deep mystical feeling comes by you as an audience when you start getting connected with the storyline. One major drawback of the film is the fact that it cannot tap a larger audience as it requires a lot of mental energy on the part of the viewers to grasp what the film has to offer and not everybody would enjoy such a slow movie.
The title of this film is very significant for the story. The term sutra literally refers to a form of precept that can summarize the teachings in scriptures. Since it is based on Chinese culture this particular film focuses on the sutras in Buddhist scriptures. According to ancient texts there are three sutras namely heart, diamond and platform sutras. The heart sutra includes the ‘Prajna Paramita’ mantra as mentioned in the film which focuses on a complete absence of thoughts and ideas which can lead a yogi to spiritual awakening. The protagonist himself is also one such individual who is waiting of his spiritual awakening to happen in terms of having a calm mind without continuous thoughts. The story revolves pretty much around this very idea where you witness the painter go on a search for his mental peace in different religious places, interacting with different people and formulating his own ideas about life.
The film has been completely shot on location with a range of visually pleasing aesthetics to offer from nature’s beautiful landscapes. It entails a soothing background core to create a light mood and set a tone for a journey of spirituality that it delves deep into. The camera work is also very detailed as some shots in particular have been zoomed-in or highlighted in other ways to communicate ideas in the form of metaphors. This creative visualization is praiseworthy on part of the director who has ensured special emphasis on little things being represented as essential parts of the life where even a blank canvas or a few strokes of paint convey such essential and notable meanings on life. The overall visual appeal of the film is absolutely on point and can be considered one of the major factors for the success of the same.
In terms of forming a connect with the audience the film has done a great job. Even though the pace remains slow throughout, the essence of the story has been maintained through the performance of the protagonist among other factors. The aspect of ascetism, mysticism and spirituality are less spoken off in mainstream cinema which is why the theme gets highlighted even more. It is interesting to note how nature plays a huge role in our lives which is another concept that has been incorporated here. An objective understanding of such films is often not possible simply because ideas such as spirituality, soul and life are very subjective and can never have an absolute meaning. Yet, as a whole this film has done a fairly good job and I would encourage our audience to share their subjective opinions on the same in the comments below.
Samiksha Periwal is an 20 year old student from Kolkata, West Bengal. She is an enthusiast, eager to learn and explore. She has done her schooling from Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, Kolkata and is currently a student of Christ University, Bangalore pursuing a triple major in BA Psychology, Sociology and English. She is a passionate writer and has won many laurels for her school through the years.