Planet of Snail is the unusual title for the Korean feature length documentary by Seung-Jun Yi, referring to how Young-Chang, the documentary’s main subject, describes his experience as a deaf and blind person feeling his way through life. Young-Chang is married to Soon-Ho and when she came into Young-Chang’s life both of their lives were transformed. The documentary follows the married couple as Soon-Ho translates and assists Young-Chang in their every day life.
Planet of Snail begins as somewhat challenging viewing as we are shown how Young-Chang and Soon-Ho get on during a regular day, rather than being introduced to them. It is immediately clear that Young-Chang is blind and that the diminutive Soon-Ho has spinal problems. Their way of communicating is unusual as the couple ‘type’ on each others’ fingers. Both speak aloud during their conversations making it more of a revelation to discover that Young-Chang is deaf. Something as ordinary as changing a light bulb demonstrates the challenges facing this couple. As with everything, together they make it work with patience, effort and humour.
With his wife’s assistance Young-Chang follows his dreams such as taking an exam in Hebrew, writing essays and a play and no longer experiencing the loneliness that so many of his fellow deaf and blind friends speak about. Soon-Ho is not a subservient wife but a woman obviously in love with the husband who loves and adores her in return. The filmmakers follow the couple as they realise that they need to develop more separation between them to enable Young-Chang to learn to be physically independent in the world.
To assist the viewer the filmmakers have attempted to recreate to a minor degree how Young-Chang experiences the world. Music is kept to a minimum and at times replaced by underwater sounds as Young-Chang enjoys the sensation of touching a tree bark or paddling in the ocean. Also the documentary is not narrated making the film at first rather bewildering. However, the purposeful lack of narration allows Young-Chang and Soon-Ho’s story to be felt on a more sensorial level as we the audience try to comprehend the world of the couple.
This is a rewarding documentary, allowing for the subjects to speak for themselves and warmly articulating the need for a person to communicate and feel a connection with others.Mairéad awarded Planet of Snail four Torches of Truth