Sunday, 2 September 2012

Planet of Snail

“In the beginning there was darkness and silence, and the darkness and silence were with god. And when I arrived, they came to me.” So speaks Young-Chan, who has been deaf-blind since childhood. He occupies the ‘planet of snail’ where touch has replaced his missing senses. Along with his wife, Soon-Ho, he moves through the world at his own gentle pace, relying on his sense of touch and his wife’s love and care to get by. This amazingly tender documentary tells their tale.

Young-Chan and Soon-Ho are the most wonderful screen couple you could possibly imagine. Soon-Ho has her own disability and is barely waist high to her husband – a real problem when it comes to changing a light bulb. An early scene sees the pair do exactly that, working together to conquer their many impediments in a beautiful ballet of movement, communication and patient understanding. Their task is complicated by Young-Chan’s needing to reach his hands up to the bulb – for his hands are his chief means of communication.

Sign-language is no use to a deaf man who cannot see. Instead, Soon-Ho spells words out on the backs of his hands, tapping her fingers lightly over his in an intimate form of Braille. In this way, these two seemingly incomplete people become whole, accomplishing tasks which would otherwise be beyond them: learning Hebrew, writing and directing a play and sledging down a slope on inflated inner tubes.

Young-Chan’s sense of awe at the world’s beauty is transmitted elegantly through his dreamily poetic voiceover, but words are not that important here. Instead, his tactile engagement with trees, sand and, hilariously, fir cones reminds us that there are many things we take for granted. Sometimes, it takes someone like Young-Chan to remind us how lucky we are.

Planet of Snail can be streamed for £2.99 at or from iTunes.

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