An Elephant Sitting Still | Chicago Reader

An Elephant Sitting Still

Set over just one day but running almost four hours, Hu Bo’s 2018 hyperrealist epic is the most audacious debut feature from mainland China since Wang Bing’s nine-hour documentary West of the Tracks (2002). Like Wang’s film, it derives its power through the accumulation of time and detail—Hu shoots nearly every scene, no matter how long, in a single take, making you feel weighed down in the characters’ lives. However ambitious, though, the writer-director-editor still had a long way to go in the fine art of characterization; you care about the subjects because they suffer so much, not because they’re particularly distinctive. Hu alternates between four major characters: an old man about to be thrown out of his home by his grown son; the old man’s grandson, a bullied high school student who accidentally kills his tormentor; the bully’s older brother, who’s involved in the criminal underworld; and a female high school student involved in a sexual relationship with an administrator. This gets more formally impressive as the story grows increasingly despairing, cannily seducing you into its pessimistic worldview. Sadly, we’ll never know how Hu would have matured from here; he committed suicide a few months before the film’s premiere. In Mandarin with subtitles.

Credits

Cast information not available at this time.

What others are saying

  • Add a review

    Rating

    Select a star to rate.