AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL (大象席地而坐)
Directed by Hu Bo
With Yu Zhang, Yuchang Peng, Wang Yuwen, Congxi Li
Fiction, 2018, 230 minutes, Mandarin with English subtitles
Tuesday, May 1 at 6pm at the Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Special Premiere Screening! FREE and open to the public
Presented by Crows & Sparrows and the Emergent Visions film series of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University
About the Film:
Under the gloomy sky of a small town in northern China, different protagonists’ lives are intertwined in this lugubrious tale of nihilistic rage. To protect his friend, 16-year-old Wei Bu pushes the school bully down a staircase and escapes the scene after the bully becomes hospitalized with his life hanging by a thread. Wei’s neighbor, the 60-year-old Wang Jin, is estranged from his family and decides to join him. Huang Ling, Wei’s classmate, is bedeviled by an affair with a school official. Together, the desperate three decide to flee as the wounded bully’s hooligan brother, the school authorities, and the parents all go on a cold-blooded hunt for Wei across town. As Wei treads through the wilderness, he finally confronts his own reality. He later boards a long-distance bus with Huang and Wang toward Manchuria, where a circus elephant is said to be sitting still.
“He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought that the world’s heartbeat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.” This quote from Cormac McCarthy is also the subject of this film. In our age, it’s increasingly hard for us to have faith even in the tiniest of things, and the frustration from which becomes the hallmark of today’s society. The film builds up personal myths in between daily routines. In the end, everyone loses what he or she values the most.
About the Filmmaker:
HU Bo (Writer and Director) Born in 1988 in China, Hu Bo graduated from Beijing Film Academy in 2014 with a B.F.A. degree in directing. His short film Distant Father (2014) won Best Director at Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival, and Night Runner (2014) was selected by Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy. His debut feature An Elephant Sitting Still, which was then still in progress, was selected by the FIRST International Film Festival Financing Forum in 2016. In the following year, Hu Bo participated in FIRST Training Camp under the supervision of Béla Tarr, where he completed the short film Man in the Well. He has also written two novels Huge Crack and Bullfrog, both published in 2017.
Hu Bo took his own life soon after finishing An Elephant Sitting Still.
“A shattering, soul-searching Chinese debut… Hu Bo’s film about people folding under economic pressure is an intimate and empathetic portrait of human suffering, with performances of astounding sensitivity. Debut features seldom come as ambitious, or as accomplished, as the magisterial An Elephant Sitting Still, written, directed and edited the Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo. Taking place over the course of a single day, this four-hour chronicle of numb desperation echoes the work of Jia Zhangke through its focus on the personal struggles of individuals left behind in China’s headlong pursuit of economic progress. The cast of disaffected youths and petty criminals living in a stagnant former industrial city particularly recalls Jia’s Unknown Pleasures, but Hu’s chosen aesthetic and mode of storytelling are entirely his own. Staying close to the protagonists at all times, both literally and figuratively, the film patiently draws a profoundly empathetic portrait of human suffering that is at once epic and intimate.” —Sight & Sound
“Influenced by European art house icons such as Krzysztof Kieslowski and Bela Tarr — specifically the latter’s Werckmeister Harmonies, in terms of its fatalistic premise and omnipresent tracking shots — Elephant provides proof of Hu’s promise as a thoughtful filmmaker. The movie stands as a memorial to a young talent who burned out too soon…” —The Hollywood Reporter