Within the gates of an isolated mental institution in in southwest China’s Yunnan province, patients are confined to one single floor of a building. Once locked in, with little contact from the outside world, anything goes.
We end our series on Chinese independent cinema with a powerful and immersive film from the country’s award-winning, preeminent documentarian, Wang Bing. Here he gains access to an asylum whose use and practices beg questions that extend beyond mental health and probe the very nature of freedom.
Being almost 4 hours long I thought the length of it would be unnecessary and due to lack of editing, but the little time spent with these characters offers a small but essential glimpse into their lives. The filmmaker appears to be invisible, giving us a bare-bone account of everyday life in a mental asylum. Traumatising, heart-warming and expertly filmed.
Screenshot and synopsis above don't accurately portray the horror of this shocking cinema verite documentary about a Chinese mental hospital. It isn't any kind of hospital at all, and those unlucky to land in it are likely to go insane if they weren't before. Dissidents and the homeless are tossed in alongside lunatics and violent criminals into this unbelievable filthy, crowded shithole of neglect and despair.
It's a shocking but very important film - although I wonder how the men would have behaved if there hadn't been a camera. At least to some of them the camera (or the film crew) seemed a very attractive thing to communicate with.
A nightmarish way to spend four hours, but films like this accomplish something noble by reminding us that marginalized, undesirable, forsaken people are still human beings like the rest of us, even when they live in enclosures and behave like animals.
After 10 weeks and 300 hours of film in this madhouse, Wang Bing came with this great documentary. As usual, not spectacular, but confident that everyday observations and length will make justice to what he saw. The result is astonishing. Madness is there alright but nothing to be compared to Depardon´s "San Clemente". Here most of those poor men dared to oppose the chinese government. Looks a lot like hell on earth.