Cambodian sci-fi set in the near future. 13-year-old Leng Heng lives in a shanty town in Phnom Penh, but is about to lose his home so the rich can develop the area. Luckily though, Leng Heng can dream about his past lives, and remembers burying a stolen golden Buddha statue somewhere close by. He enlists neighbourhood ragamuffin Srey Leak to help him find it.
This film is so impressive. It’s really hard to make technology look integrated into recognisably familiar real life, especially when showing it across the class divide. Yet Karmalink makes it look seamless.
I really loved that through the film, as they are going hither and thither, figuring out the secret of the stolen Buddha, they meet with all these neighbourhood characters, the folk that Srey trades with for spare parts, the people who can point you in the right direction for a favour, folk you barter and haggle with, so by the end you too get why Leng Heng loves his community and doesn’t want to leave it. It really builds up the human world, not just the technological one.
In the world of Karmalink, internet access now connects directly to a neural interface, which looks like a wee light up dot you stick on your forehead. When wearing you can turn on access and all wifi forms a 3D space on which information is projected. So it means Leng Heng can record his dreams, and play them back for Srey Leak so they can look for clues.
But there might be more to Leng Heng’s dreams than he realised. Could technology’s ability to record the lifetime of a mind unlock the key to the soul and reveal the mysteries of the cycle of reincarnation?
This film does a lot of difficult things very well, and makes it look easy. To mix sci-fi and spirituality; to tell a story across consciousness, dream, life and death; to show one character played by different actors through previous lifetimes but still remain crystal clear and easy to follow; to have all the young teen mystery of The Goonies while still having an ambitious sci-fi concept; they pull it off like it was nothing, when any element of which could have made the film lose its footing.
Really interesting film, able to satisfy adults looking for a sci-fi and kids looking for an adventure.