Wang Bings werk echoot Johan van der Keukens gedachte dat cinema “alles kan zijn, maar niets IS, behalve een oog en een oor.” Dus in de eerste plaats wandelen, de ogen en oren openen met arme middelen, waarin Wang Bing zowel genereus aandacht geeft als streng aandacht eist. “Ik kijk en luister hier en nu: kijk en luister!”
Wang Bing’s film is at once epic and intimate – epic because of the sheer scale of the constructions, and the long, straight railroad tracking shots Wang employs to render its geography; intimate because of its focus on the daily life of the last workers and the soon-to-be displaced. Wang’s film is not journalistic in that it does not show us, for example, the bureaucrats who made the various life-altering decisions, and it doesn’t show the rest of Shenyang – the bourgeois neighborhoods, shops, hotels, highways.
The exercise is new to me. To reread what I have written in another time. Over the past decade, I was occasionally prompted to speak on Wang Bing’s film West of the Tracks (2002), which I don’t just consider a great movie but a cinematographic event that changes the state of things we still call ‘cinema’. In Corps et cadre (Verdier, 2002), I regretted not being able to produce a true critique of this film fleuve (of nine hours). The thing was beyond me; it still is. I then resolved to a different tactical approach. To examine what remained of the film in my memory. A film which is that long, a whole which is that intricate, cut into four segments each lasting more than one hour, two hours, three hours, obviously presents a challenge to the memory of the spectator that I am.
“I don’t usually worry about whether the audience will accept the way my film is designed. You are the filmmaker; it is your job to make a convincing work. Instead of worrying about the audience, you should search for ways to make your film a good one. To me, it means to look for, or create, a potentially better cinema that fits your needs in making this particular work. At the same time, your film must be capable of accommodating the living reality of its subject. [...] The technique and style you choose for a film should be appropriate to your subject matter. What is really important is to establish a relation between the subject of your film and your audience. It is the camera that creates this connection.”