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 ...
See full summary »
Inspired by real events, five friends struggle to cope with their frustrations and are compelled to violence as Weltstadt, a once-popular tourist spot, falls onto hard times following the reunification of Germany.
A psychiatrist and his blind girlfriend, bound by sinister interest. A school doctor, who lost more than work with her dismissal. Her brother, who will do everything for her. A desperate ... See full summary »
Sarah Victoria Frick,
Becky, Maik and Tommi, a group of right-wing radical youths, aim to establish a terrorist cell in Germany. Seeking national attention, they commit a range of escalating crimes whilst facing disorientation and their appetite for murder.
When the brilliant but sexually inexperienced computer science student PIET is turned down by bright and beautiful KLARA, he is deeply hurt. He takes a dose of a sleep medication, leading ... See full summary »
Linus de Paoli
Adam Ild Rohweder,
On the stage of her high school drama class 17-year-old Sarah gives it all. When she performs, there is an instant of suspense in which she appears to transform completely into her ... See full summary »
Martha is in a happy relationship with Paul. She shares her life with him, and she trusts him and feels she knows him inside out. But one day two policewomen appear at her door and suddenly... See full summary »
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. Among them is schoolboy Bu, on the run after pushing Shuai down the stairs, who was bullying him previously. Bu's classmate Ling has run away from her mother and fallen for the charms of her teacher. Shuai's older brother Cheng feels responsible for the suicide of a friend. And finally, along with many other characters whose fates are inextricably bound together, there's Mr. Wang, a sprightly pensioner whose son wants to offload him onto a home. In virtuoso visual compositions, the film tells the story of one single suspenseful day from dawn to dusk, when the train to Manzhouli is set to depart.
The film premiered at TIFF (Toronto international Film Festival) in Canada in September 2018. See more »
He told me the other day. There is an elephant in Manzhouli. It sits there all day long. Perhaps some people keep stabbing it with forks. Or maybe it just enjoys sitting there. I don't know.
See more »
An Elephant Sitting Still, a 2018 Chinese film by Hu Bo, just under 4 hours long, enters the lives of four people and those who impact them. First we have a high school student, Wei Bu. His parents constantly berate him, telling him he should go live with his grandma - he would, but her apartment has no heat. His friend has crossed the school bully, so Wei Bu backs him up, believing he didn't steal the bigger boy's cellphone. They meet in a stairwell to have it out, and the bully attacks Wei Bu for interfering. In a shoving match, the bully falls down the cement stairs, badly injured.
The next character, Yu Cheng, older brother of the bully, listens to his best friend's story about an elephant at the circus in Manjhouli: the elephant just sits there, even if people stab it with forks. Then Yu Cheng is caught sleeping with the friend's wife, but his friend rather than attacking him leaps from the high apartment window to his death. It's not Yu Cheng's fault - but if he hadn't been in his friend's girl's bedroom, it wouldn't have happened.
Wei Bu likes a girl, Huang Ling, but she rebuffs him - she's having a soon-to-be-revealed affair with the married Vice Dean at their high school. This man tells Wei Bu that their school, the worst in the city, is closing. "What will we do?" Wei Bu asks. "You'll be street vendors," says the Vice Dean, who then goes on to talk about the larger office he's looking forward to in the school he'll be transferred to. Huang Ling lives with her single mother, who drinks, complains, and lies around while the toilet overflows. Their hatred is mutual.
And last, we have Wang Jin, living with his daughter, her husband, and their young daughter. They want to move to another district for its better school, but apartments there are smaller and more expensive, so they'd like Grandpa to move to the nursing home. He tells them the place won't allow dogs, and besides, they're all living in his apartment. But he can see what's coming.
Everyone in this film is angry - with each other, with their lives - and most of them blame someone else for their unhappiness. Love and affection are in very short supply in this industrial city where we only catch rare glimpses of anything not man-made - a river valley one can look down on from a high overpass, a clump of weeds. And the built world is unattractive - rubble outside buildings, an abundance of concrete and rusty iron.
Misfortune caroms like a billiard ball, striking one person who strikes another who strikes a third - the only ones able to rise above the attack-and-blame cycle are those who have their thoughts on other things - Wei Bu escapes murder by telling Yu Cheng, who feels duty-bound to avenge his "piece of garbage" brother's death, about wanting to go to Manjhouli to see the elephant sitting still. That's really what Yu Cheng wants too - he despises his own thug life, but sees no alternative.
As we spend hours with these characters, their families, their enemies, we get to know each as an individual - whatever they do, harmless or evil, they are aware of it, and aware too of a sense of being trapped. And in the end, there is an epiphany, or an elephant. If you're one of those rare filmgoers who looks forward to spending four hours with a story, this one's for you! It won Best Feature Award at the Berlin Film Festival, so you might get a chance - at a film festival. Keep your eye out for it.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this