Animals aren’t the better people either. In Rithy Panh’s hybrid documentary and essay film Everything Will Be OK, they take over the world only to commit the same, uh, inhumanities.
First they tear down monuments – Statue of Liberty, Pyramids, Pantheon, everything is ruined. A fraction of Stalin’s mustache is still sticking out of the sand. Then they erect their own statues of their leader, a wild boar with imposing tusks. In its hands it holds its instruments of power: a smartphone and a book reminiscent of Mao Tse Tung’s “Red Bible”, only with a golden pig’s head on the front.
They build concentration camps, force prisoners to work, humiliate, experiment, execute. The Cambodian filmmaker, born in 1964, found a unique film language for the scenario reminiscent of George Orwell
Rithy Panh, who fled to France to escape the Khmer Rouge, had hundreds of clay figures molded and painted, which he arranged in true-to-scale dioramas. The camera glides through these miniature landscapes, showing pigs, dogs, lions, elephants, monkeys and crocodiles in close-up. They hold weapons in their hands, sometimes also ropes by which they lead the people.
“Everything Will Be OK” is not an animated film in the traditional sense, nor does it use stop-motion technology. The clay figures just stand around. As detailed as they are designed, they have a gentle charm of the naïve – which is at the same time unsettling given the atrocities they commit.
As it turns out, they act like humans. In a hall that looks like a mixture of control center and machine room, the animals look at the accumulated monstrosities for which people were responsible in the 20th century. Rithy Panh shows archive footage of executions, war crimes, murder and manslaughter, violence against animals: slaughtering, the disposal of male chicks, animal experiments, sometimes in six parallel split screens.
One is tempted to just follow the film with fingers held up, similar to Rithy Panh’s series of images of destruction and corpses “Irradiés” two years ago, with which he won the Berlinale Documentary Film Prize.
But horror also lurks on the audio track. When it’s not barking, grunting, growling, and roaring, cries of pain can be heard. Or the ax blows of the poachers chopping up the legs of a killed elephant. A woman’s voice, which initially introduces itself as “the archive”, tells the “moral fable” of the way the world works. The text, written by Christophe Bataille – Rithy Panh has written two books with the author – oscillates between poetry and philosophy and finally contributes to the overwhelming demands of the audience.
Overexploitation of nature, meat consumption, capitalism, surveillance, abuse of power, which for the filmmaker also seems to manifest itself in the obligation to wear masks and vaccinations), totalitarianism, fascism: in his “Worst-of-Humanity” scenario, Rithy Panh assembles a whole host of enemy images. He combines them with the Knet tableaux in order to demonstrate the absurdity of human action.
A thoroughly pessimistic worldview. The director doesn’t give you any hope that it could be okay at some point. Unless even the animals do better and in turn subjugate humanity?
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