Jonas Bak Introduces His Film "Wood and Water"

"Its slow pace, subtle images, and sound design make the film an exercise in seeing, in attention, in finding beauty in the ordinary."
Jonas Bak's Wood and Water is now showing exclusively on MUBI in most countries starting September 28, 2022, in the series Undiscovered.
Wood and Water
The story of the film is in many ways the classic story of the prodigal son and resulting estranged family relationships. Naturally you would tend to follow the young man as he heads out into the world, does his thing and fails, learns his lessons, and returns home with empty pockets, full of remorse. But in this case, we were more interested in the perspective of the ones left behind, in particular his mother, and we wanted to ask: How does this distance feel, the distance to what’s closest to you? And what are the consequences? The loneliness, our own loneliness, but also the loneliness we inflict on others. 
The first part of the film focuses on a feeling of stillness and stagnation. Instead of looking forward, the mother moves backward, into the past. She lives in her memories of her best years, which can be a dangerous place. The second part is a dive into the unknown, a curious step toward change. She forges connections with people, a doorman, a fortune teller, a social activist. The heat, the noise, the bustle of Hong Kong and the protests rattle her; they create empathy in her for people who live in a place that has so little to do with her own life, yet the experience makes her feel like she’s part of everything. She finds her feet in the present, and along the way, the worries surrounding her son get replaced by acceptance. 
With these two distinguished parts, the film is structured around dualities: rural and city living, Eastern and Western spirituality, worry and peace of mind, being alone and being together. I imagine the two parts as a long, deep breath in and an exhale: first you take in the worries and loneliness, the void of retirement, and then you allow yourself to breathe and move on from it. A bit like meditation, a non-dualistic journey of healing, attempting to dissolve polarity between things like science and spirituality, the personal and political, time and space. 
We wanted to achieve this feeling of calm through the form of the film. The plot is there of course, but it’s merely whispered over the mood and the atmosphere of the film. Its slow pace, subtle images, and sound design make the film an exercise in seeing, in attention, in finding beauty in the ordinary. We wanted the audience to explore a new world at the same pace as the protagonist and make this as much of a transformative experience as possible.


IntroductionsNow ShowingJonas BakColumns
Please sign up to add a new comment.


Notebook is a daily, international film publication. Our mission is to guide film lovers searching, lost or adrift in an overwhelming sea of content. We offer text, images, sounds and video as critical maps, passways and illuminations to the worlds of contemporary and classic film. Notebook is a MUBI publication.


If you're interested in contributing to Notebook, please see our pitching guidelines. For all other inquiries, contact the editorial team.