Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

The Epic Debut and Last for Hu Bo

We regret it when we realize that An Elephant Sitting Still is an epic debut and the last for Hu Bo. Not long after finishing the film, he decided to end his life. Even though he became a sensation, it was not because of his suicide. It was all because he filmed one of the stories from his first novel. The film takes us all day long to enjoy the story of four victims of selfishness. Once upon a time, there was a city called Manzhouli, China.

An elephant sits there, ignoring the world in there. It was memorable because it inspired the film’s four protagonists to go to the city. Indeed, the film will not tell how the four characters will leave for Manzhouli. However, it takes us into an exploration of each individual’s story. At the same time, it brings us to how Bo finally relates one to the other. The first character, Wei Bu, is an unhappy student.

With his father’s conditions, he does not want to fight all the resistance in front of him and becomes daily food for him.

The Mythical Elephant

Huang Ling, Wei Bu’s colleague, has a situation that is not harmonious with her mother. Such disharmony had an impact on her, and she started ignoring friendship. She began to amuse herself in her way. Plus, Wang Jin is a grandfather with one grandson faced with a condition where he has to be “out” by his son and his son-in-law from his apartment. It is due to better education funding for the granddaughter.

Contrastingly, he is also under threat of settling in a nursing home. The final character is Yu Cheng; he likes to sleep with his best friend’s wife as an outlet. With a duration of 230 minutes, An Elephant Sitting Still takes us into the full color of gray. When the sun rarely peeks out from behind the clouds, the four main characters will continue to feel the weight of deep despair. It takes a long time as the narration fills in with painful yet silent transitions.

Just as the camera uncomfortably captures such silence, the fateful convergence of the mythical elephant, Manzhouli, and the characters serves as cinema’s central identity for preserving time. Therefore, it captures the boredom of time after its spiritual significance is lost.

The Lives of Others

Regardless of whether it takes place over a non-stop period, various incidents fill the lives of each character, whether it’s death, quarrels, or infidelity. Rather than being an impetus for change, such actions act as part of a never-ending cycle of violence. By becoming kinetic, Bo’s preference for a long time does not translate into a peaceful narrative. He prefers to leave static settings in favor of a cellular camera until it’s frenetic.

The scene’s framing reflects the environment and its characters, who are in a perpetual downward spiral with little hope of escape. Before showing freedom and body autonomy, the camera always follows and even approaches the character. It acts as invasive surveillance as if it were a detective looking for answers to riddles. Will they find a glimmer of hope at the film’s end in finding a reason to live?

The camera seems to adopt a low-angle perspective, clinging to such images even with a solitary performance style. All the characters demonstrate resilience in fighting for their respective realism with a sense of adoration and love. In addition, railroads become a path of freedom and illusions of fraud, bureaucracy, and schedules.

Reaching the Desperate

The railroads play a crucial role in the film as an entry point to the physical transformation. On the other hand, the characters’ majority in the film is incapable of reaching the desperate. Indeed, the resulting economic insecurity results in broken bodies and families. All the characters live lives they would never choose if choices facing them. It deviates from destiny, much like a railroad, rather than liberating.

While crowded circumstances exist, An Elephant Sitting Still is not utterly hopeless. It always balances it with surreal yet grotesque impulses; life overpowered it. Each character establishes a relationship and falls in love, walking towards a confrontational climax with a disastrous feeling of the growing influence of love. However, love becomes a double-edged sword, presented as a sacrifice above everything.

Such is the case with a young student having an affair with his teacher—one-sided love. It surrenders us to the system so that people will almost certainly betray us. Often, it anchors us to inequalities that have damaged people for so long that we no longer have the ability to restore them. In-between character storylines, Bo cuts through and uses subplots to extend the feel of a threatening environment.

No Remedy

Like the story of the runaway dog, An Elephant Sitting Still aims at strengthening the connection between the strands of red thread. Each character believes that someone will continue to let them down, but they all find ways to overcome such setbacks. Like an elephant contemplating death, visions underlie the gloom of every character. However, he is far from pessimistic in the face of those grappling with moral doubts.

Mostly, it makes the film much more interesting than slow or hopeless cinema. Personally, it felt like a suicide letter filled with blood but with the slightest hint of hope. At the film’s end, we will hear a strange voice that gives high meaning to the whole narrative. Even if it’s up to us, the sound can mean absolution, anger, despair, or redemption. We can interpret what we see depending on our respective knowledge of such a background in the film.

It became the first, but not the last, film with a unique talent to have such an impact. When remembering the words, we can read them as an end-of-life account or an expression of hopelessness that has no remedy. We may also find evidence in the film of four deaths: two suicides, one dog, and one accidental.

Tarr’s Influence

At the last moment, a character screams at people around him and the world. He shouted that we would all go to hell. It seems that we, as spectators, may be living in an earthly abyss. However, both the journey we take and the characters in the film ultimately show some hope. How far had they gotten before they could return to their lonely world? When one thing we can’t expect from An Elephant Sitting Still occurs, a cry of anger that is rough but beautiful will fill the entire film.

Despite the filmmaker establishing himself as a novelist, it resembles one of those sleepy Hungarian townships in Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó. Indeed, Bo had been Tarr’s apprentice. We can see the traces of his influence, not only in the film’s commitment over a long period. Visually and yet narratively, Bo crafts the film artfully. We don’t always notice what’s going down because of how cleverly he does it.

However, he overemphasizes one particular visual element while undercutting others. It becomes a method that ensures that the audience is always paying attention. The camera frames the two characters tightly in close-ups of the shoulders and head; it allows the viewer to see important details.

The Distance

Even though the specifics are blurry in the background, it all depends on a figure suddenly appearing in the distance. In a climactic confrontation scene, we can’t recognize it, except when we remember that one of the characters always wears a sweater with an undeniable red color. Therefore, Bo is a master of concealment. He always kept predominant incidents out of sight. For example, the husband jumped out the window and mauled the dog.

In the last instance, the camera pans around Wang Jin, the animal corpse covered in blood. It all makes for clever staging from an expediency or economic standpoint. However, every character, on the other hand, is brilliant. It was because of their emotional baggage that the incidents were so indecent. It counteracts the emphasis on oppression in a claustrophobic city, which Bo delivers through the tight framing’s use.

The discrete dynamism gives the film a sense of variety to the point of openness. There are three colors: gray, brown, and blue. The use of voices matches the muted narratives in the film. Almost all of the acting is humble to the point of catatonia. Most characters continue the story in a semi-narcotic calm, exhibiting a passivity that isn’t so much as dogged tenacity in the face of terror.

The Glamor of Meaning

Each character lives in a world without a protective authority to intervene and give hope difficulties they must face, not just despair. The glamor of his dull yet humble demeanor embodies Yu Cheng’s character as the epitome of worldly anguish. Despite his gradual inclination towards redemption, the source of higher meaning in such a world is mysterious. The elephant title, which is on display in the city of Manzhouli, appears to be sitting motionless like a Buddha.

Throughout the day, the elephant refuses to cry, even when visitors poke it with a fork. If anything, Yu Cheng and Wei Bu combined the two personas of the elephant. They were determined to see it with their own eyes. The legendary creature became the film’s answer to immortal whales. The violence and chaos of the world revolve in harmony like an extraordinary giant.

Chiefly, Bo speaks of a blur of meaning; neither we nor he can fix it. Statements of hopelessness could have been opened by the audience, with seemed-exaggerated elements. After all, it’s all about suffering, and life only doesn’t get any better. At the moment, Wang Jing went to visit a nursing home.

Emphatic Suffering

The camera slowly traces a row of gloomy rooms where an elder barely moves resides. The use of a desolation score makes for an overly emphatic poignancy. However, it is the only moment in the film where the music doesn’t work. Slight lyrics, smooth guitars, and piano echoes somewhere else are quietly enchanting. However, it takes moments before we realize that all the actions happened in one day.

We may become aware that the night is getting late. While Bo performs a magical yet effortless timing trick, an incident occurs: a train passes in the background. Because the film is moving, the closing credits include a dedication to the creators. The photo of Bo himself smiling that the cameraman took just before his death at 29. He has decided that he has no future. However, there must have been one when an original but powerful statement was unmistakable for the times.

Like in the last shot, the four protagonists can finally breathe, allowing for a spiritually transcendent ending. By being one of the greatest in contemporary film history, there is a spiritual stillness and a perspective of scope. The speed remains slow. However, the time has regained its meaning beyond suffering.


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