Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #38 The World  ★★★★½
Within this faux-international microcosm Zhangke weaves a tapestry of stories both devastating in their specificity yet achingly universal. Couples fall in and out of love while foreign performers have their passports seized by unscrupulous managers. Women are reduced to prostitution to support and visit loved ones while men far from home die on unsafe construction sites. Co-workers who speak different languages comfort and soothe each other through tragedy despite not understanding anything the other is saying.
Zhangke’s pacing is glacial, moving with the lumbering god’s-eye sweep of great novelists like Dickens or Hugo who always contextualized their characters as individual cogs in a greater, unseen whole. And like all great works of art, it’s taken on greater meaning in the years since its creation. Watching The World in 2020, one can see different potential semiotic meanings in the park. What seemed an egalitarian fantasy-land in 2004 now could be seen by some as a trophy collection celebrating Chinese economic domination. Who knows what it might suggest in another sixteen years?