It’s hard to say exactly when it happens. A hare is let loose in the forest, a dog gives chase and the boy tears after them, his father in tentative pursuit. Minutes pass, the forest falls silent, and when the boy re-enters the frame, something has changed: he now speaks with the voice of his dead mother. Mingchung shows little surprise at Xiuying’s return, he even asks why she didn’t come earlier. She says she’ll leave again once she’s completed one simple task, to replant the tree that stands before their now abandoned home. But where do you move a tree to when it feels like the whole area is taking its last breaths? Mingchung’s uncle’s orchard is already dust and the very landscape seems sickly, the earth scarred and yellow, the air grimy from the mine, the sky perpetually grey. Maybe that’s why Xiuying’s passage was so easy, this place already seems like a strange netherworld, where goats shelter in trees, mice overrun abandoned wardrobes and boulders descend the mountain apparently unaided. Zhang Hanyi’s debut film is a beautifully austere ghost story, the story of a ghost returning home and finding nothing left, a story where a final glance at the camera is the only solace.
by Zhang Hanyi
with Zhang Li, Zhang Minjun, Wang Ji Shan, Wei Xiao Min
People’s Republic of China 2016