Review of the film Wood and Water: a meditation on age and motherhood
Oood and Water is the first feature film by German writer and director Jonas Bak, with a slow but moving soundtrack by Brian Eno. It tells the story of Anke (Anke Bak), a recently retired woman living in rural Germany who calls all of her children home to come and celebrate the start of this new chapter in her life. At the last minute, her son Max, who lives in Hong Kong and hasn’t been in three years, cancels, saying he’s stuck there due to pro-democracy protests.
Eventually, bored with all of her new free time, Anke decides to go to Hong Kong amid the protests to try and visit her son. Wood and Water follows her journey, as she abandons the familiar world of her domestic life in Germany’s Black Forest region for the new perspectives she finds in Hong Kong.
You might expect a shoot during a series of heated political protests to be high-intensity. Wood and water is no such thing. It can be described as smooth, both in rhythm and in plot.
While in Hong Kong, Anke encounters a series of characters, from two young Australian travelers on their last night on the town to an old Chinese fortune teller, forging a particularly close bond with the security of the building’s caretaker. Max, where she resides during her stay despite her unexpected absence (we never meet him).
Most of the time, that leisurely pace is a real strength, but there are times during the film’s 85 minutes where, alongside the lack of plot, minimal storyline, and very low-key acting, he can start to feel like he does. appear dull and stagnant. Although this is already a short film, there are times when the camera lingers for a second or two too long on a still shot.
Still, the film is beautiful and deals well with ideas of aging and intercultural relationships, though less completely or effectively with themes such as motherhood and politics, which feels like a missed opportunity. Sometimes Bak’s execution is lacking – some moments seem trivial, and despite many beautiful scenes, sometimes the movie goes so slowly that it starts to get monotonous. Ultimately, this is a character observation and, as such, a moving portrayal of a woman who discovers herself late.