As an international student, I was so glad to see that there are some Chinese films were selected at MIFF, and audiences could learn about Chinese films and talented filmmakers. Today I will highlight this Chinese film An Elephant Sitting Still. I heard of the name of this film for the first time when it was mentioned on Chinese social media after its debut at the Berlinale 2018.
An Elephant Sitting Still is directed by Hu Bo who is a young Chinese talented filmmaker. Hu Bo killed himself on his 29’s years old when the film was edited after filming, and this film has become his first film and also last one. There are so many conjectures for the reason of suicide of Hu Bo, but on one knows the real reason. When I watched this film at MIFF, all audiences enjoyed the almost 4-hour-long film with no one leaving in the middle of the movie.
The film starts with a man telling a tale about an elephant in one of circuses in Manzhouli (a city in Inner Mongolia, China) just sitting there all day long. This film uses parallel narratives to unfold a normal day of four protagonists: a man who watches his best friend jumping off the building; a teenage boy who is mistrusted by his family and friend; a young lady who has bad relationship with her mother and has affair with vice chief of the high school; an old man who is a decrepit soldier and about to be sent to nursing home by his children. It seems that these four people shouldn’t have connections in the real world, but they meet and all want to go to Manzhouli to see the elephant in the film. These four people have similar bad experiences of loneliness and wretchedness. and they all think that they want to escape the life. For them, where the elephant sits is regarded as a Utopian place that might change their wretched life.
Hu uses bluish-grey color in the whole movie, which means the down moods of four protagonists and also gives audiences the feeling of loneliness and depression. “The sun does not come out from behind the smog; and the world is a barren field but there is no place for them to escape.” In my opinion, the director Hu wants to present the ruthless world which four protagonists lives in and he lives in as well. There is no place for anyone to escape. I think “elephant” is the loneliness and wretchedness. Although people try their best to escape and change the wretched society, it still sits there.