As Wang Yang’s observational documentary “Transition – House” opens, we see a panorama – a stretch of land marked with a number of cranes and buildings in numerous states of completion. There’s nothing distinctive or distinguishable about it, however we study by means of a brief textual content that it’s situated within the “mega-university city” Guodu, Xi’an Province in western China. It was as soon as, most likely not way back, a farmland, as we study from the collection of photographs from excessive above the bottom. The digicam pans to indicate us the panorama, it’s presently being redeveloped and “modernized.”
Transition – Space is streaming on CathayPlay
Not every little thing is proven from this elevated perspective, although. Very early into the documentary, we see the within of a building elevator and a set of palms that press the buttons to go down. It’s as if we’re the architects, who scanning their creation, have determined to come back all the way down to the bottom and see how the folks use their work. Or possibly we’re one of many menial employees the film reveals us repeatedly? We by no means know, and, frankly, it doesn’t matter all that a lot.
Whoever we could be, we go to completely different areas within the place and witness the results the altering panorama has on the folks. We do this both by means of the regular, immovable gaze of the static shot or by means of the judgemental-yet-detached one of many sluggish vertical pan. Each of them, nevertheless, present the very same factor – droves of people that don’t have interaction with each other. All of them, be they college students leaving the college grounds or outdated folks coaching within the parks, act as if they’re totally alone.
Whether or not the folks onscreen stroll, run, stretch or dance, they do it in full silence. Nonetheless, because the digicam reveals us, it’s not the kind of silence that comes from respecting these round you, however from pretending they don’t exist. We see this finest by means of an extended and relatively uncomfortable dolly shot of rows after rows of individuals queued at what might be one of many newly constructed supermarkets within the metropolis. Although containing completely different folks, they’re all the identical as a result of they’re all ghostly quiet and pretending like nobody else apart from them exists.
Other than newly sprung buildings, what connects all areas proven by means of Wang’s digicam is the deathly sense of silence. Regardless of how many individuals there are onscreen, and at occasions there are lots of if not 1000’s, there’s this sense of maximum, even heavy, silence. We hear some environmental sounds, resembling machines whirring or boomboxes enjoying music, however virtually by no means any pure sounds, be they folks speaking and even bugs buzzing.
There are just a few scenes wherein we are able to hear folks speaking. One in every of them is of newly transplanted to town village individuals who communicate to one another and complain about one in all their neighbors on to the digicam. It’s as if, not but been alienated by the expertise of dwelling in an enormous metropolis, they’ve managed to guard their reference to the remainder of the humanity.
This temporary, surprising due to its spontaneity, scene is contrasted with the military-like one following it. Although happening at a newly constructed karaoke membership and containing the longest time somebody speaks in the whole documentary, it appears, sounds, and feels as if taken at a military base. As an alternative of a military man, although, it reveals a petty gangster-looking man lecturing new staff on the right way to serve their new masters, the random guests. Although sounding like a human talking, it’s something however a dialog for it’s one-sided and dehumanizing. Identical to the whole undesirable transition in the direction of alienated existence that “modernization” brings.