The Missing Picture (R13)

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Rithy Panh
Randal Douc

The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byJennifer tate19/12/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 92 mins

The Missing Picture is a unique documentary that poignantly tells a harrowing account of life under Pol Pot’s dictatorship, but it lacks essential structure and visual magnetism, making it feel as if its running time is much longer than 92 minutes.

What’s it all about?
Adapted from the autobiographical sections of Rithy Panh’s book, The Elimination, The Missing Picture is a Cambodian documentary, in which Panh (who directs and co-writes) uses intricate clay figures to portray the differences between his life before and after the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh in 1975, when he was just eleven years old. Combining his carved figurine (created by Sarith Mang) performances with archival footage and his own narration, Panh tells of how Pol Pot’s communist regime turned his comfortable middle-class life into a one based on mass deprivation, fear, starvation and torture.

The Good
The Missing Picture is a profound documentary that poignantly tells the harrowing story of how Pol Pot’s dictatorship devastated the lives of Cambodian citizens, who each saw their personal belongings confiscated and their families torn apart. Panh’s story is most definitely heartbreaking and unique and to learn of his torturous years of working in child labour camps and almost starving to death after being confiscated from his comfortable family life is devastating. Sarith Mang’s clay figures (which are moved about on doll-like sets) are impressive and Panh’s decision to blend them with archival footage is interesting and gives the film an a distinctive quality.

The Bad
Unfortunately, The Missing Picture often loses focus and lacks structure, making it sometimes seem all over the place and much longer than its 92 minute running time. This isn’t helped by its lack of visual magnetism (although the clay figurines are impressively executed, the film in general is far from visually arresting) and the solemn score is rather dull to say the least. There’s also a sense of repetitiveness, with the film spending much longer with the figurines than it probably should.

Worth seeing?
Despite a slow pace and lack of visual magnetism, The Missing Picture is still worth seeking out due to its sobering account of life under communist regime.

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Content updated: 18/08/2019 13:58

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