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‘An Elephant Sitting Still’ Review: Bleak, Graceful Realism

来源:纽约时报    2019-03-08 06:14

        The much-talked-about elephant in Hu Bo’s “An Elephant Sitting Still” never appears onscreen, but it isn’t an imaginary beast. The sedentary pachyderm is rumored to live in Manzhouli, a city in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China, some distance from the gray industrial city where the film’s characters struggle and suffer.        在胡波的电影《大象席地而坐》中,那头备受关注的大象始终未出现,但它并非只是一头想像出来的野兽。据说,这头坐在地上一动不动的厚皮动物,生活在中国北方内蒙古自治区的满洲里,距离影片中的人物挣扎、受苦的那座灰色工业城市尚有一段距离。
        The elephant is a lure and a metaphor, a teasing reminder of a natural wonder and creaturely variety that is otherwise barely in evidence. This rigorously bleak, powerfully absorbing feature — nearly four hours long, shot in subdued colors and slow takes — posits a world from which nearly all fellow-feeling has been drained. Envy, mistrust, manipulation and blunt aggression govern human relations. Pleasure is scarce.        那头大象是一种诱惑,也是一种隐喻,以挑逗的方式提醒着一个几乎看不见的自然奇观和动物多样的存在。这部电影阴郁而又引人入胜,片长近四个小时,色彩柔和,镜头的运用舒缓,它设定了一个同情已被耗尽的世界。嫉妒、怀疑、操纵和粗暴的攻击者支配着人与人之间的关系。快乐是种稀缺物。
        Taking place over a single day and following the overlapping, increasingly desperate itineraries of four people, “An Elephant Sitting Still” encompasses two suicides, several beatings, a shooting and the death of a dog. If anything, this summary undersells the misery. Those periodic eruptions of violence are like bubbles breaking the surface of a steadily simmering pot. Cruelty and alienation go all the way down.        《大象席地而坐》的故事发生在一天之内,它追随着四个人相互之间存在交叠、越来越绝望的行程,里面有两起自杀、几场斗殴、一次枪击和一条狗的死亡。其实,这样总结低估了那种痛苦。那些定期发作的暴力,就像是一口不断沸腾的锅里挣破表面的水泡。残酷和疏远一直在延续。
        Yu Cheng (Zhang Yu), a handsome, hollow-cheeked midlevel gangster, is having an affair with his best friend’s wife. The friend comes home and discovers the adulterous pair together, and jumps out the window to his death. Wei Bu (Peng Yuchang), a student at a second-rate high school, plots revenge against the bully who torments and humiliates him. (The bully happens to be Yu Cheng’s younger brother.) Their plan fails, but also succeeds in the worst possible way. Meanwhile, Wei Bu’s classmate Huang Ling (Wang Yuwen) is involved in a tawdry relationship with a school administrator. Wang Jin (Liu Congxi), a retired military officer, is being pressured to move into a retirement home by his upwardly mobile son and daughter-in-law.        于城(章宇饰)是一个英俊的、脸颊凹陷的黑社会大哥,与好朋友的妻子发生了婚外情。朋友回家发现了他们的奸情,于是跳窗自杀。韦布(彭昱畅饰)就读一所很烂的高中,他计划报复欺负他的人。(欺负人的恰好是于城的弟弟。)他们的计划失败了,但也可说是以最坏的方式取得了成功。与此同时,韦布的同学黄玲(王玉雯饰)与学校的一名行政人员有了暧昧关系。王金(李从喜饰)是一名退役军官,被正在向更高社会阶层流动的儿子和儿媳逼着搬进养老院。
        Their paths cross and recross, though not in the magical-thinking, we’re-all-connected style of the multistranded narratives — “Babel” and “Crash,” for instance — that were especially fashionable in world cinema in the early and mid-2000s. Even as Hu’s suspenseful, surprising story draws the characters toward one another, his somber, careful compositions emphasize their isolation and the social conditions that make solitude a protective strategy.        他们的命运之路交叉再交叉,但并不是在奇幻思维中,而是我们所熟知的那种多向叙事风格——这在本世纪初和中期的世界电影里特别流行,比如《通天塔》(Babel)和《撞车》(Crash)。虽然胡波充满悬疑和意外不断的故事将人物引向彼此,但其阴郁、细致的构图强调了他们的孤独,强调了使孤独成为一种保护策略的社会条件。
        If there is occasional tenderness — between Wang Jin and his young granddaughter, or more tentatively between Wei Bu and Huang Ling — it seems fragile and fleeting, unlikely to survive brutal Darwinian reality. Everyone is expected to be selfish, suspicious, status-obsessed and mean, and most people live up to the expectation.        即使偶有温柔——比如王金和小孙女之间,又或者韦布和黄玲之间——似乎也脆弱而短暂,不大可能在残酷的达尔文现实中存活下来。自私、多疑、看重身份、刻薄是对每个人的期待,而绝大多数人都没有辜负这个期待。
        “An Elephant Sitting Still” shows the influence of Jia Zhangke, modern China’s cinematic laureate of disaffection and dislocation. (His new film, “Ash Is Purest White,” will open in North America soon.) But it also shows a restless and original visual sensibility. Unsparing as Hu’s anatomy of moral drift may be, there is something graceful in his sympathetic attention to lives defined almost entirely by disappointment and diminished hope. Unlike the titular elephant, the film never stops moving, and by the end, instead of feeling beaten down, the viewer is likely to feel moved as well.        《大象席地而坐》表现出了贾樟柯的影响,他是当代中国电影的杰出人物,作品充满了不满和错位。(他的新作《江湖儿女》不久将在北美上映。)但它表现出了一种不安的、原始的视觉感受。虽然胡波对道德沦丧的剖析可能毫不留情,但他向生活所投注的同情目光,还是不无优雅之处,那是一种几乎完全由失望及希望的幻灭所定义的生活。不同于片名里的那头大象,这部电影从未停止运动,到最后,观众的感受不是颓丧,反而可能是感动。
        But such catharsis is shadowed by the knowledge that this will be Hu’s only film — the ambitious and imperfect testament to a career that ended when the 29-year-old director took his life in 2017. It is, of course, a mistake to draw too literal a connection between that awful fact and the unhappiness onscreen, but it’s also hard to avoid the impression that this persuasive portrait of a society in crisis is also a deeply personal statement. An act of solemn, disciplined and passionate protest.        当你了解到这将是胡波唯一的一部电影,这种宣泄随之变得黯然——这部雄心勃勃但并不完美的电影,是这位在2017年自己29岁时自尽的导演电影生涯终结的见证。把这个可怕的事实和银幕上的不快乐联系到一起当然是不对的,但也难以避免产生这种印象,即它是对一个处于危机中的社会所做的有说服力的刻画,也是一份深刻的个人陈述。这是一种严正的、井然有序的、充满激情的抗议。

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