Jia Zhang-Ke’s film describes today’s China in three chapters set in 1999, 2014 and 2025.
The consequences of rapid economic change on people’s lives, personal and national identity, relationships, and family ties; the impact of growth on the physical, human and social landscape of contemporary China; and the difficulties in surrendering to the lure of progress and adapting to the inevitable mutations that form the moral and cultural abyss in which new Chinese generations float, castaways in a sea of uncertainty. These are the themes at the heart of the films of Jia Zhangke. The cinematographer has observed the explosive evolutions taking place in his country since his debut feature Pick Pocket, a milestone in Chinese cinema. He collected the Golden Lion at Venice 2006 for Still Life and Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2013 for A Touch of Sin.
In his new film, Mountains May Depart (also a competitor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival), the independent director of the so-called sixth generation of Chinese filmmakers (who has nevertheless reconciled with the official film industry and censors) once again directs Zhao Tao, his wife and muse since 2000, and portrays reality according to the xianchang, the aesthetics of the “here and now”, tinged with autobiographical musings.