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A hot ticket at Berlin this year, this impressively crafted and deeply felt super-sized epic has continued to pull big audiences at festivals around the world, the film’s tragically sad backstory notwithstanding – first-time director Hu Bo committed suicide late last year. Elephant is a truly symphonic piece of cinema filled with moody close-ups and virtuoso tracking shots.
The extended runtime passes quickly as Hu takes us into the lives of four interconnected characters over the course of an event-packed day. Teenager Wei Bu accidentally injures a bully defending a friend and goes into hiding with the assistance of his elderly neighbour. Meanwhile, Wei’s female classmate is engaged in a risky affair with the school’s dean and the bully’s gangster older brother arrives seeking retribution. - MM
“Influenced by European art house icons such as Krzysztof Kieślowski and Béla Tarr – specifically the latter’s Werckmeister Harmonies, in terms of its fatalistic premise and omnipresent tracking shots – Elephant provides proof of Hu’s promise as a thoughtful filmmaker. The movie stands as a memorial to a young talent who burned out too soon.” — Clarence Tsui, Hollywood Reporter
“Debut features seldom come as ambitious, or as accomplished, as the magisterial An Elephant Sitting Still… This four-hour chronicle of numb desperation echoes the work of Jia Zhangke through its focus on the personal struggles of individuals left behind in China’s headlong pursuit of economic progress… but Hu’s chosen aesthetic and mode of storytelling are entirely his own.” — Giovanni Marchini Camia, Sight & Sound