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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Lang Khê Tran
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.
After finishing the movie, Hu Bo tragically committed suicide in October 2017 at the age of 29. This makes "An Elephant Sitting Still" his first and also his last feature film. 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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There are several reasons why you will not forget this film if you have had the patience to sit through the 4 hours of its slow running time. One of them will be to wonder if the long film was worth your while.
The director Bo Hu only made this feature film in his entire life before he committed suicide at age 29. The film is based on his book that he wrote under a pen-name. With a book and a feature film to his credit, Bo Hu evidently still felt trapped.
All the characters are innocent but nihilistic to the core caught within China's social "no-win" trap if you are not rich or have political connections. Nietzsche would have smiled at this film. There is no way out. Yet they hope optimistically for a better life. It is a curious film that ends up with stupid violent scenes as some recent award-winning films from China have. Nothing positive to take away here after 4 hours. The concept of the elephant sitting still is possibly positive, which is why four adults want to metaphorically see it. One positive takeaway in the indirect commentary on China today, rarely discussed in the media.
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