Still Life (2006)


Like The World, Still Life was directed by Jia Zhangke. I was feeling horrified when I realised I had to watch another one of his films. They were very artistic (a little too much for my liking), and his film style of documentary + fiction, and uncompressed time made it painfullyyy slooowww to watch. 


Still Life uses the real history and events of building the Three Gorges Dam to set the film in context. The construction of the dam has caused the displacement of more than one million people, as flooding occured due to construction. This films tells the story man in search of his daughter after being estranged from his wife.

Jia Zhangke prides himself with how “My(his) camera never lies”. However, there were several instances in the film that was more “supernatural”, and did not make sense to me at all. For example, an unusual looking building launches and flies into space. Also, when a woman spots a Undefinable Flying Object in the far sky.

I thought it was a familiar use of juxtaposition, in The World and Still Life: as seen here, the rocket was able to launch successfully and up and away. This, despite the fact it is a torn down building, representing death as no one lives there or has any use for the building. Also, the mise-en-scene where the rocket was flying, what takes central position is the tank top hanging, possibly left to dry. In such an advanced world/ city that a building is able to fly, people are still hanging their clothes and not using the clothes dryer? Hmm…




Haha, Jia Zhangke and his antics, I have yet to understand. In The World, we had the transition from a text message to an animation sequence. In Unknown pleasures, we see extreme repetition of scenes (The man pushed the girl down 8 times as she tried to escape from his trailer! EIGHT TIMES). In Still Life, we see supposedly still, dead objects coming to life (Is this some form of escapism too??). Perhaps a symbol of China’s industrialization and progression too?



There is a lot more to talk about this film, but for around 300 words, these should suffice. Regarding Jia Zhanke’s films, as our lecturer puts it: ‘ I hope you don’t have to watch Jia Zhangke’s films after this module’. ‘Watching Jia Zhangke’s film makes you feel like you have wasted half of your life’. Still Life was my third Jia Zhangke film, the first two being The World, and Unknown Pleasures. After watching 3 Jia Zhangke’s films, I feel like I could accomplish anything.




1^ Sun, J. (2002). Selecting Images in the Experimental World: An Interview with Jia Zhangke. Avant-garde Today.



2 thoughts on “Still Life (2006)

  1. I agree that Still Life’s key point included the symbol of China’s industrialization and progression! We can see from how they planned to disintegrate the buildings and people just to finish the building of the Three Gorges Dam.

    I like how Jia Zhangke always add some unique elements to tell his hidden meaning of the story. Just like The World, he used animations to suggest escapism and the advancement of technology in China. I guess in this film, the supposed weird building rocket is to suggest something similar as this were created with computer generated system. Or like how you mentioned, that people are not using clothes dryer but we have a rocket blasting off. Interesting.

    Thank you!


  2. I entirely had the same thoughts as you when I found out we had to watch yet another JZK film. Gosh it really feels like half of lives had past watching 3 of his films due to his constant signature docu-realism filming style.

    I like how you analyzed the nonliving building, that is essentially abandoned, and linked it to being dead but being able to successfully take off like a rocket with the tank top hanging out to dry parallel to it on screen. Perhaps Zhang is trying to portray the western influence of technology and how the success of it has led to the inner ‘death’ of the characters and the tank top in the scene perhaps signifies how those of lowerclass or less well to do at being left behind to continue with their old way of life? We will never know, but it does leave a point to be discussed about.

    Throughout the 3 JZK films that we have watched, although I was honestly dreading to watch this film too, his essence and realism of China in his films really opened my mind and I learnt a lot. To say its just a film is an understatement, its an art piece that acts like an institution to educate the world and the more well to do people of China as well what is actually happening as the government tries to hide these happenings. Well done! 😉


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