An Elephant Sitting Still
Director: Hu Bo
Dawn breaks in a desolate, gray industrial city in the north of China. Until sunset, we follow four characters whose lives will intersect. There is Yu Cheng, a young crook who goes in search of 16-year-old Wei Bu who accidentally injured his brother to death. In addition, we have 60-year-old Wang Jin who fears that his family will put him in a home. And then we have Huang Ling, a classmate of Wei Bu, who has a relationship with a school board member. The title refers to a myth: in the far north of China there is said to be an elephant in a zoo that refuses to eat and move in order to let all the suffering of the world slide away. One of the main characters absolutely wants to visit that elephant.
A film of an exceptionally high aesthetic level: long takes, masterful use of depth of field, muted color palette, very nice soundtrack. All this creates a melancholic atmosphere and emotional depth. 'An Elephant Sitting Still' will remain the eternal debut of Bo Hu, who stepped out of life himself just before his own premiere. An act that becomes symbolic for this deeply human portrait of people in a society that is increasingly selfish and where life, even in a small Chinese village, is increasingly under economic pressure.
A remarkable debut that is related to the work of Kieslowski & Bela Tarr, but also to David Foster Wallace's 'The Pale King' and Chantal Akerman's 'No Home Movie'. The film received the Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival 2018.
Movie review by Ralph Vandamme
Kuleshov - Urgent FM
About the director
This bitter indictment of life in contemporary China proved a tour-de-force for 28-year-old director and writer Hu Bo. Sadly, the sense of hopelessness that permeates the 2018 film is as much a cry for help as it is social commentary; Hu took his own life soon after completing it. The work went on to win the best feature film award at the prestigious Golden Horse Film Festival last year.