During the marijuana bonanza, a violent decade that saw the origins of drug trafficking in Colombia, Rapayet and his indigenous family get involved in a war to control the business that ends up destroying their lives and their culture.
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" the only feature film he directed in his lifetime. See more »
When Wei Bu was packing his bags, the camera swayed from side to side. 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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Recently we read a lot in the newspapers about the trade war between the US and China and the fact that it won't take long before China is the biggest economy in the World.
In "An elephant sitting still" the emphasis is not so much on the economic performance of China but on the environmental disaster that is taking place. The film is set in a dreary landscape, fog is always present and grey is the dominating colour.
There is not only an environmental disaster going on but also a social one. Most of the people we meet in this film are selfish, indifferent, corrupt and harsh. Maybe they weren't born that way, but in the society portrayed by this movie, in order to survive you can't afford te be sensitive. After finishing this movie the (debuting) director committed suicide. The direct cause was a conflict with the producer over the length of the film, but after seeing the film it is difficult to seperate his suicide from the totally dark image of Chinese society in the film.
"An elephant sitting still" is an ensemble film. We follow the lives of four main characters during one day. Contrary to for example "Magnolia" (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) there is no redemption at a deathbed at the end of the film here. One main character compares his life with a garbage bin. The older he gets, the more garbage he collects.
In "Magnolia" there is a mythical element at the end in the form of a shower of frogs. "An elephant sitting still" has its own mythical element. At the eind of the film we hear the trumpeting of the elephant (without seeing the animal).
Up to that moment there was only talk about a circus elephant that went on strike and did nothing else than sitting in his cage. It is up to each viewer to interpret the symbolic meaning of this elephant, but in China an elephant is seen as a wise animal and the lethargy to wich he had fallen can be seen as a protest agianst the harshness of the society portrayed in the film.
For me there was clear link between the elephant in "An elephant sitting still" and the whale in "Werckmeister Harmoniak" (2000, Bela Tarr). A link that beomes even more obvious when I red (after seeing the film) that Bela Tarr was one of the guest teachers of directer Bo Hu.
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