In the northern Chinese city of Manzhouli, they say there is an elephant that simply sits and ignores the world. Manzhouli becomes an obsession for the protagonists of this film, a ...
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In the northern Chinese city of Manzhouli, they say there is an elephant that simply sits and ignores the world. Manzhouli becomes an obsession for the protagonists of this film, a longed-for escape from the downward spiral in which they find themselves. Among them is schoolboy Bu, on the run after pushing Shuai down the stairs, who was bullying him previously. Bu's classmate Ling has run away from her mother and fallen for the charms of her teacher. Shuai's older brother Cheng feels responsible for the suicide of a friend. And finally, along with many other characters whose fates are inextricably bound together, there's Mr. Wang, a sprightly pensioner whose son wants to offload him onto a home. In virtuoso visual compositions, the film tells the story of one single suspenseful day from dawn to dusk, when the train to Manzhouli is set to depart.
The film premiered at TIFF (Toronto international Film Festival) in Canada in September 2018. See more »
He told me the other day. There is an elephant in Manzhouli. It sits there all day long. Perhaps some people keep stabbing it with forks. Or maybe it just enjoys sitting there. I don't know.
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Few debuts are this good. Throughout four hours, Hu Bei creates an overwhelminly human and sensitive film, creating characters to which we deeply sympathise and connect with. The more the film moves long, the more impactful it becomes, and soon enough even the smallest actions, the most simple scenes become huge, due to the sheer emotional investment the spectator has. This works mostly for these reasons: Bei's camera, which is always close to the characters, following them in long, some times astonishing shots; the actors, all of them astounding; the long running time, which gives time not just to explore each character, but also for the viewer to just spend time with these people, who we love to care about so deeply. Melancholic but not sad, deeply moving but never sentimental, An Elephant Sitting Still doesn't feel bigger than life: it feels like life, period. To call it a masterpiece would be an understatement.
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