La Mu Yu Ga Bei | Lhamo and Skalbe (2019) San Sebastian Film Festival 2019

October 1st, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/: Sonther Gyal | Drama Tibet/China | 80’

Best known for his standout feature The Sun-beaten Path, Sonther Gyal  is part of the first generation of Tibetian/Chinese filmmakers. His epic style and long takes go well with the majestic Tibetian landscape. While the spiritual aspect always plays a big part, the small details of day-to-day conflicts are never far away.

The film centres on the actress Lhamo who wants to marry race horse owner Skalbe, who, it turns out, already married Cuoyehe four years earlier, although the two are no longer together. The registrar insists that Skalbe brings the old marriage certificate and his ex-bride, so that a new marriage can take place. And so Skalbe sets off to try and find Cuoyehe. It emerges through discussions with his sick father and mother that his marriage to Cuoyehe was one of convenience: Skalbe and his parents hoped for financial help from the bride’s family.

Meanwhile, Llamo is pressured by her mother to take the well paid role of Atak Lhamo in the epic play King of Gesar. Lhamo is very much against portraying a sinful woman, because it reminds her of her own error – as a young girl she got pregnant, and her child is being raised by relatives. She would like to take over her daughter’s upbringing but  her mother is hell bent on keeping things as they are. Eventually Skalbe does eventually find his ex-wife but the path to true love is, as usual, never straightforward., and in this case, particularly tortuous.

Book-ended by a mournful song about Lhamo, this is a passionate feature, with brilliant images by DoP Meng Wang. Particularly memorable and poetic are the long takes of Sklabe’s ride on a motorbike. Sonther Gyal avoids sentimentality working with his convincing ensemble cast to create a real gem. AS




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