An Elephant Sitting Still
Release year: 2018
Run time: 235 mins
Film type: Fiction
Set in a decaying industrial city, An Elephant Sitting Still is composed of beautifully orchestrated sequence shots punctuated by silences and sudden outbursts of verbal and physical violence. The film unfolds over a single suspenseful day and follows the intertwined struggles of its characters: Bu is on the run after critically injuring Shuai, the school bully; Shuai’s older brother, a gangster, seeks revenge; another of Bu’s schoolmates, Ling, fears the release of an incriminating video. Although the emphasis is on the characters’ subjectivities –achieved visually through the predominance of facial close-ups and shallow focus – the film firmly situates their tribulations within the bleak and determining context of the city’s economic depression.
Born in Jinan, Shangdong, China, He studied Film Directing at the Beijing Film Academy. Following two short films and several novels, An Elephant Sitting Still was his first feature-length film. This is a four-hour portrait of a society of egoists. Tragically, it will also be the final chapter in his legacy. On October 12, 2017, the artist took his own life at age 29.