The movie opens with a ferry travelling across the breathtaking waterways in the city of Fengjie; The place which is soon to be submerged to construct China's largest dam. Inside the crowded ferry in a lonely corner sits Han Sanming a poor coal miner who has come to the place in search of his wife who ran away from him 16 years ago with his infant daughter.He enters the city just to find that his wife is dislocated elsewhere and he has to stay there and wait till her return.He joins the local groups of workmen- slowly demolishing the remaining buildings with hand tools. He roams around in the to-be-empty streets of Fengjie smoking cigarettes and giving himself to the calmness and depression of the town.The movie then cuts to the story of a pretty young nurse Shen Hong who has come to Fengjie in search of her husband who left her two years earlier and never returned. She searches for her husband in the abandoned factories and excavated lands. She finds a friend of her husband and together they try to reconnect with her missing husband. Finally after a long search Shen finds out that her husband has become a successful businessman and also he has found a new woman. Shen who came to reunite with him finally confronts and informs him that there is another man in her life and decides to divorce her wandering husband.Again the film travels with Han Sanming who finally finds his ex-wife to be a bonded laborer and he has to pay 30,000 Yuan to cover the debt and release her.The film ends with a determined Han Sanming leaving Fengjie and walking back to his hometown to work hard and earn enough to save and reunite with his ex-wife.
The movie travels with the two souls who come in search of their loved ones, along with it the movie conveys the story of Fengjie province which has relocated more than a million people to build the massive Three Gorges dam. All the supporting characters who accompany Han and Shen in their journey convey the pain of dislocation from home.And the film is suitably divided into four section namely "Cigarettes","Liquor","Tea", and "Toffee" which accordingly classify the mood of the lead characters.Also there is the presence of some surreal elements such as a UFO and a flying buildings that add to the addiction that the movie creates in us. “Still Life” is a film which wanders throughout, and is narrated by visuals and anecdotes rather than a traditional story line. Cinematography by Yu Lik-wai is the strongest point of the movie. Right from the very first shot the viewer is captivated to the screen, the majestic river covered by dense green mountains and gray clouds which give an artistic touch to every shot conveys the rest which the characters forget to convey in their silence. The film as such is poetically beautiful and presented in a dreamlike narration.It went on to get wide critical acclaim and top honors for best movie at Venice International film festival and many others.
The film as such conveys nothing, with visuals of strange blank spaces and stories of lonely hearts it requires a certain amount of patience to watch. Throughout the film the protagonists keep staring at the life around. They look at the flight of UFO's, demolition of skyscrapers, death of a loved ones, dilapidated town with calmness and with absolute indolence. They are not excited, they take life-one moment at a time, they stare at the stillness of every event happening around them. The stillness of commotion, the stillness of chaos, the stillness of despair, the stillness of life, the stillness of death.The ending sequence shows Han Sanming walking away from the town, just to stop by the sight of a tightrope walker who tries to to travel the distance between two buildings over a rope with just a long stick for balance and the grey clouds forming a mystic background. Han Sanming keeps staring at the view above him and the movie closes with a black screen and a magical score filling in the thoughts and ears.When it ended I was reminded of the sight of the waiter and the little bird. I closed my eyes to interpret the thousand meanings that are always left untold.
To visit my World Cinema series click here..