An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)

An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)

A demanding exercise in despair, and an honest statement from a filmmaker gone too soon

The Very Best

8.6

Movie

China
Mandarin
Crime, Drama
2018
HU BO
Chaobei Wang, Li Congxi, Li Qing
234 min

What it's about

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.

The take

Clocking in at just under four hours, Hu Bo's first and last feature film—before his tragic death at the age of 29—is a sprawling indictment of a country that the filmmaker must have viewed as positively hostile and suffocating. Following several characters whose paths intersect as they try to escape their current circumstances, An Elephant Sitting Still creates a truly oppressive atmosphere that may not lead you to the answers you expect, but it should leave you feeling haunted for a long, long time. Beautifully scored, shot, and acted, Hu's film offers practically no hope but it keeps on moving with a sense of freedom and determination all its own. This is as honest a film can get; Hu has left behind a moving legacy.

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