Erkhii Mergen, or Why the Marmot Doesn´t Have a Thumb is a short fiction film about a man who is tugging on a dead horse. It is the graduation film of Dutch director Thessa Meijer. The film is produced by VENFILM.
On a magical twilight morning an old Mongolian man named Erkhii Mergen is dragging along his dead horse out of town. During his trip Erkhii Mergen meets a little girl, three street sweepers, a suntanned cocky guy and a red-haired man with an exceptionally high forehead. Night owls and early birds from an industrial city that have never paid attention to the daily grind. Erkhii Mergen leaves a trail of confusion: what first seemed to make sense, appears as senseless as the literal version of the proverb* that passes them by.
*The Dutch saying “Tugging on a dead horse”, i.e. performing an impossible task and useless labor.
I came up with this idea when I got stuck writing a former screenplay. A friend told me: “You shouldn’t continue tugging on a dead horse” and I started to think about this from a whole new perspective. I thought: ‘Why shouldn’t you tug on a dead horse?’ and ‘What if someone would?’
This seemingly useless activity triggered a stream of thoughts. What exactly do we experience as meaningful? Working, earning money, saving for retirement? We all are familiar with those moments when everyday activities suddenly seem meaningless and absurd. People like ants on an escalator, like sardines in a tin, hurried, stressed, focused on a successful future, and sadly, the inevitable death.
In this short film Erkhii Mergen has a thought-provoking effect on the people in his surroundings. I would like my audience to reflect on their idea of a meaningful life in the same way. A stranger’s pointless mission might suddenly make more sense than your own daily activities.
This film is primarily a tribute to stubbornness:
don´t condemn a person who holds on,
even if he of she, in your eyes, is tugging on a dead horse.
For me, something is meaningful if it originates in conviction instead of some imposed routine, when something is built out of passion instead of greed. In that case progress or achieving your goal is not necessary; just one special moment can be enough to light up your day. With Erkhii Mergen, or Why the Marmot Doesn’t Have a Thumb I hope to convince my audience to think the same way.
- Thessa Meijer
Our main character is based on the Mongolian folk tale "The Legend of Erkhii Mergen, The Archer". One wonderful element out of this myth is the swallow, flying constantly above Erkhii Mergen. The story will be told from the perspective of the swallow. The storylines will connect through shots that are filmed as they are the POV of the bird, which will enter and exit most of the scenes.
The soundtrack melts spherical soundscapes with Mongolian influences like throat singing and the morin khuur, a string instrument. The dead horse will come to life in the soundscape through the sound of the moring khuur, like in this video, in which the Mongolian band Anda Union imitates a whinnying and galloping horse.
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Танд хандив өгсөнд баярлалаа. баяртай! (“Thank you for your donation. Bye!” in Mongolian)