Still Life (2006)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB

Original Title: San xia hao ren

/, 2006. , . Screenplay by Zhangke Jia, , . Cinematography by . Produced by , , , , . Music by . Production Design by , . Film Editing by .

One of Jia Zhangke’s best combinations of sociopolitical investigation and human drama, this is an absorbing, powerful film about people in search of both their own and their country’s past.  (the director’s cousin and frequent collaborator) stars in the first half as a man who has come to a town in Fengjie county looking for his ex-wife and daughter, neither of whom he has seen in over a decade since they left him in Shanxi. The address he has for them is now submerged under water as the town is being demolished in order to eventually be flooded for the creation of the Three Gorges Dam, which means he needs to go on a film noir-level search for his family by following a series of contacts and clues that sometimes bring him trouble. In the second half, plays a nurse who shows up on a similar mission, looking for her husband from whom she has not had a word in two years, and she too must endure a series of confusing misdirects before achieving her goal. What they get from their searches, however, isn’t satisfaction but confirmation that the changes that have happened in their lives are similar to the ones happening around them, there’s no going back to the past. Jia shoots them against the backdrop of the actual dam project, surrounding these powerful personal experiences with images of the vast sky and body of water as the characters traipse through half-finished demolition projects looking to find their loved ones. It captures a powerful moment in the country’s ever-changing landscape but never lets go of the power of human connection while doing so and, as in the best of all the director’s works, feels effortless at carrying off both qualities.

Toronto International Film Festival: 2006

Venice Film Festival: Golden Lion

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