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article imageReview: ‘Canopy’ is a silent triumph Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 16, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘Canopy,’ an Australian fighter pilot is shot down over Singapore during WWII and unites with a Chinese soldier to survive.
In war, countries join forces as allies fighting for a common cause though they may share little else. The soldiers bond over their desire to survive, even though language can be a barrier to further interaction. In Canopy, two ally soldiers unite in the jungles of Singapore in spite of not being able to speak the same language.
In 1942, Jim's (Khan Chittenden) Australian fighter plane is shot down and he awakens suspended from the treetops in the middle of enemy territory. Freeing himself, he attempts to find his way back to his mates while avoiding Japanese patrols. During a close escape he stumbles on Seng (Tzu-yi Mo), a Chinese soldier separated from his group. Together, with little means of communication, they try to stay alive long enough to get to safety.
In spite of having less than a page of dialogue exchanged between the main characters, this movie is far from silent. The sound design is a key element of the film, emerging as an additional character in the narrative. In the still of the jungle, wild animals are heard in the distance while the sound of nearby footsteps inspires instant alarm and scurrying.
The first minute of the film leaves the screen black with just the sounds of war to fill the void. Audiences are left to imagine the fighter planes battling in the sky with the sounds of gunfire and aircrafts whizzing by playing over the speakers. It's an absolutely brilliant beginning to this style of picture that only resonates more as the narrative unfolds.
The actors are forced to rely on their body language, facial expressions and hand signals to communicate with the viewers and each other because of the language barrier. When Seng speaks there are no subtitles, immersing audiences further into their predicament. Moreover Jim does not utter a word until nearly the end of the film, making the only words heard until then either Chinese or Japanese.
Though filmmakers had difficulty obtaining permits to shoot in the rainforest, it's impossible to think of it occurring elsewhere. Every element of this film is intricately combined to effectively draw the audience into their world.
Canopy screened as part of the Discovery programme during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Director: Aaron Wilson
Starring: Khan Chittenden and Tzu-yi Mo
More about Canopy, Khan Chittenden, Tzuyi Mo, Aaron Wilson, Tiff
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