I will probably not see every film at this year’s edition at Fantasia, and thus, I’m not going to make the definitive statement that Tran Thanh Huy’s Rom is “the anti-capitalist film of the festival.” However, its anti-capitalist bent is so strong that you would need a film akin to Eisenstein’s Strike to really surpass Tran’s film.
This is a really strong film. There’s little about this story of a 14-year-old lottery “runner” (young men who procure and buy lottery tickets in exchange for a small percentage of the profits) named Rom (Tran Anh Koah) that doesn’t please. Rom is one of those film’s that formally pops, and I imagine that I will remember it for quite some time.
Most notably, there’s a kinetic sense to the film. As Rom moves through Ho Chi Minh City’s underbelly, the camera follows him, or at least tries to. You can’t keep up with this kind of street film, all you can try to do is depict the bodies in motion. Yet, there is still a tremendous amount of beauty in the film. Tran still manages to find time for some gorgeous expressionistic lighting; specifically, I can several eye-popping shots generated with fuchsia filters.
That Tran drops most of the film’s necessary exposition in the film’s first fifteen minutes is my only major complaint about Rom. It’s probably necessary, however, as the film progressively strips away most of its dialogue, leading to a third act that is almost all motion. That’s fine, because what Rom really wants to suggest is how that motion becomes all we are capable of in a capitalist world. At the end of the day, all we can do is run, run against the fading of the life. Run, to out run the machine.