Still Life (2006)

Directed by Jia Zhangke, Still Life tells a story about two separate lives, a man and a woman, each trying to find their own spouses for very different reasons. For those who are interested in watching this film, just be warned – it’s a verrrryyyyy slowwwww paced film.

Still Life was filmed in Fengjie village, residing in a small town on the Yangtze River. I feel that the slow pacing of the film reflects the current state of the Yangtze River at that juncture of time. The condition of the river was slowly deteriorating due to the erection of the Three Gorges Dam and it affected the residents living near the river. They cannot do anything about it but to accept the impending fate of the village. Majority needed to be relocated and until the dam is fully built, they just have to slowly live their lives out while accepting their fate. I can only imagine the restlessness they felt and I feel the feelings they were feeling were accurately portrayed by the style of directing.

Not only did the cinematography/slow pace of the film mirrors that of the situation in real life China, but I also feel that the mise en scène of certain scenes brought across a certain message. Some of the scenes were overexposed, blowing out the details and highlights, unabling the viewers to properly make out what the scenes contained. This suggests that maybe Jia Zhangke was subtly implying that the future of the village residents was obscure, mirroring that of the hard-to-see scenes. Not only that, but I also feel Zhangke was implying more than just that – he was trying to tell us that the future of the residents was not just obscure, but bleak; as apparent from majority of the scenes that were dark and gloomy.


3 thoughts on “Still Life (2006)

  1. I agree that the slow pace of this film reflected the overall atmosphere of life in that town. As you have mentioned, the people of the town could do nothing but accept what was coming to them. While you watch this film, you feel as sense of sympathy toward the protagonists but at the same time, you cannot help but wonder if any sort of progress is worth this much of sacrifice and struggle. I enjoyed your observations and insights on the mise en scène of the film- it is interesting to see how different cinematic scenes or details could have implied a sense of obscurity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Izwandi,

    Trust me, i felt the same way too about the pace of the movie. However, i too, felt that it was a reflection of the times in the town. Slow and without choice. The title of the film supports this as well, “Still Life”. I liked how you broke down the plot and analysed the different meanings behind the scenes. You must have put a lot of thought into it. Your post was a very interesting read and I cant wait to read your next one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, this movie was definitely too slow for my liking! Your take on how Jia is trying to tell us that “the future of the residents was not just obscure, but bleak” is something I share sentiments with. The future of the residents was indeed ambiguous considering how most of them had to move out of the area and have their livelihoods affected by the construction of the dam. To make matters worse, these were the very people who lie at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Thus I believe that this film was Jia’s way of showing the effects such national projects bring about to people who are not well off financially.

    Liked by 1 person

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