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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Still Life

A few nights back I was there in this crowded restaurant near my place, burning with hunger, I ordered my food and waited. Time passed and i got nothing. Restless,I looked around for my waiter. It was a chaotic sight all around, people moving in and out, noise of the speaking voices, waiters rushing with the servings.And finally i found him, the middle aged man who took my orders, he was standing by the other side, he stood there motionless like a saint, i looked him in his eyes , his eyelids made no movement; they were wide open, he was staring at something across the road. It was a little bird standing in the middle of the busy road. It was idle too.My waiter's eyes were fixed on the bird, he seemed to have forgotten himself, it was just the bird and him and nothing else. Not his job, not the chaos, not his family, not his life- nothing. Time stood still for him. I have no words to bring out the essence of the moment. I left him to enjoy the moment, and closed my eyes to interpret its meanings. When i opened my eyes, both the bird and the waiter had left the place. A special moment had ended for the three of us. And chaos was back on track. In a way it is these moments that remind us the real pace of life, however maddening we make it, life moves in its own pace. One tear at a time, one little grin at a time.Incidentally i watched this movie sometime back and all through it kept on reminding me about the real pace of life. "Sanxia Haoren" (2006 Eng- Still life) a Chinese film by the acclaimed director Jia ZhangKe is the story of two people who come in search of their spouses to a city which will soon be disappearing under water.

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..


Aravind said...

Man! I want to declare that i am a fan of your reviews! :D The way you blend it with your personal thoughts and experience is just awesome.

Wish you write more.

And i think there is a director in you. Why dont you choose some bright intelligent assistent directors (like me! :P) and think about making a film? ;)

>>Jass<< said...

Lovely review... I should watch this one.

Milinta said...

Your movie reviews are always a class apart... Wonder how you bring so much of soul to whatever you write... Absolutely loved the way you've put the waiter episode across and drawn out parallels of it with the movie! Simply brilliant Vignesh!!!

Vignesh said...


It has to be personal els don think i would end up writing :)...

//And i think there is a director in you

LOL... sathiyama this s a too much :) but still felt good reading it... thanks for tat belief and ppl like u should consider us after ur into films...:)


Thanks dude... let me know how u felt after watching it...

That was so kind of u :)...And also lets not call these as reviews as im nobody to review great art... Im just sharing my experience when i feel moved... In a way my "reviews" are biased :)

ArchFULLY said...

Do check it out..

Vignesh said...

Hey arch- caught up a lil... will take it soon :)

The Seeker said...

Hello! reading a review of yours! after a long time,

Just imagining! when I can stop all this chaos, and just be a silent observer, seeker with a watchful apartness, but not a participant. Reminded of this poem, What life is this, full of care, No time to stand and stare

Good one da vicky!!!!
Also reminded of one of my posts title..

LIfe - A stand-still race

Alphonsa said...

Hey Vicky! That was a superb review! :)
But i loved the first para the best! :) more than the review..

and yeah I'm loving your writings man! ;)

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