FANTASTIC FEST 2022: ‘One and Four’ Is A Thrilling Western

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One and Four - But Why Tho

The beauty of Westerns lies in their simplicity, but more specifically how to use silence. One and Four gets that. An entry at this year’s Fantastic Fest, the film is written and directed by Tibetan filmmaker Jigme Trinley, and adapted from a novel by Jamyang Tsering. Taking place in one cabin and one forest, this film lets the cold seep in deep as the distrust mounts.

Set somewhere on a frozen mountain, Sanggye is a forest ranger living a monotone life. His bread is frozen solid, the meat has been picked clean from the bones, and everything the solitude of the cold mountain has set in. Then, Sanggye hears a pounding on his door, his monotonous life is upended when a wounded man storms the cabin, rifle in hand. In an attempt to assert power, the man claims to be a regional forestry police officer hot on the trail of a poacher. But the truth may not be what’s presented on the surface. Sanggye nearly immediately believes that the man is the poacher and not an officer.

With distrust central from the moment the two interact, the officer takes Sanggye to the site where he crashed his SUV in pursuit of the poacher to prove his innocence. With a Blizzard fast approaching, the duo returns to the cabin only for two more intruders to join the scene. What results is a four-way standoff with each man suspecting the others of being either the poacher or the poacher’s accomplice.

One and Four manages to use the mistrust and the setting (both sweeping landscapes that make you feel insignificant and cold and the claustrophobic cabin alike) to drive tension. Instead of relying on large acts of violence, Trinley expertly understands how to write emotional moments that depend on the actors’ abilities to represent suspicion and fear, and intimidation in the smallest of moments.

The silence, the sounds of the cabin, and the cold stares from the men are as effective as the direct confrontations between them. Shooting in such a small space, Trinley and cinematographer Lv Songye has an expert eye for getting interesting perspective points from around the cabin, somehow revealing new elements to the small space throughout the story.

At a tight 88 minutes, Trinley adds no pomp and circumstance to his story. He allows the actors to carry it all, propelled by the sound design and atmosphere, this is a bare-bones film and it thrives because of it. While I don’t want t spoil any of the film’s twists, the best way to describe the narrative is as a rubber band being pulled. It gives at first, but the farther you stretch, the harder it gets and you get antsy anticipating the inevitable snap you’ll feel against your fingers when it breaks. That build-up hits hard, and while the ending feels slightly uneven, One and Four is solid.

One and Four is one hell of a western. It’s cold, fierce, and showcases how tension and drama can be pushed even with no words being spoken. A sleeper hit of Fantastic Fest, I hope this Tibetan gem is one everyone can get their eyes on.

One and Four was screened as a selection for Fantastic Fest 2022’s film programming.


One and Four
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

One and Four is one hell of a western. It’s cold, fierce, and showcases how tension and drama can be pushed even with no words being spoken. A sleeper hit of Fantastic Fest, I hope this Tibetan gem is one everyone can get their eyes on.

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