« Estranged Paradise » begins with a slow, elegant montage of hands: first, scrambling through the water of a tank to capture and extract an eel. Then, the hands of a couple hang awkwardly apart before slowly, shyly reaching to touch and grasp. Hands strike match after frustratingly unsuccessful match in order to light a stick of incense. A hand holding a brush brings a traditional landscape to life on the screen as an unseen narrator expounds upon the Tao of Chinese painting. Yet Yang had long nurtured cinematic aspirations, and has been working on « Estranged Paradise » (« Mosheng Tiantang ») since 1995. Filming completed in 1997, but funding problems postponed completion of the sound editing until this spring, and it debuted at Germany’s Documenta11 in June. Asian Wall Street Journal, November 8-10, 2002
« In my eyes, the most striking visual features of Yang Fudong’s videos are their painterly quality, and their sensual yet enigmatic beauty with a certain dissonance not unlike the music of Jing Wang which accompanies Close to the Sea. While the imagery at times becomes abstract, it remains firmly grounded in the tradition of Chinese landscape painting and composite photography, the latter developed in the 1930s in Shanghai by Long Chin An. His model is Western photo montage but, unlike photo montage whose makers don’t take the trouble to conceal the joining parts, since the story or the idea is essential, Long has developed a technique to print only the desirable parts from two of more negatives. The purpose of using disjunctures in Western art was to disrupt a compositional balance and hence to convey the idea of the inner life of present day man¡}. Chinese Intellectuals in Yang Fudong’s Work NC a Western View- Shanghart Gallery
AN INTERVIEW WITH YANG FUDONG:
THE UNCERTAIN FEELING. AN ESTRANGED PARADISE
INTERVIEWED BY ZHANG YAXUAN TRANSLATED BY CHRISTINA YU
35mm, black-and-white, 76 mins, 1997-2002 Director: Yang Fudong
Cinematography: Wang Yi and Liu Tao
Music: Jin Wang @ Shuijingdie Band (Crystal Butterfly)
Cast: Zheng Hong, Zheng Chunzi, Qi Wei, and Shen Xiaoyan
Zhang Yaxuan: You are from Beijing, currently living and working in Shanghai, and this movie was shot in Hangzhou. The geographic relationship here is a bit unusual. Why do you have such a special love for the southern cities?
Yang Fudong: Before I start, I want to thank all my friends and family who have helped me. I think this movie could only be made in the south. As I grew up, I wanted to learn and experience new things. I went to college in Hangzhou. Many experiences, feelings, and judgments developed around the process of growing up. Later, one starts to contemplate them, and eventually one comes to prefer certain things over others. I think most people would not feel bad about going to college, especially about going to college in a city like this [Hangzhou]. There were a lot of wonderful feelings.
Zhang Yaxuan: You said that after graduating from the Zhejiang Institute of Fine Art, you did not have a job between 1995 and 1997, so you hung around in Beijing. Were you planning to make An Estranged Paradise then?
Yang Fudong: I had the idea right after graduating from college, but did not realize it. Around 1996,I rented a place in a court yard across the street from the National Museum of Art.I wanted to do something meaningful and interesting, so perhaps I thought of making movies then. At first I took some classes at the Central Academy of Film, and worked with a production team for several days. But I felt distant. I wanted to get closer to films, but the close feeling could not be obtained from being with a production crew or from taking classes. It seemed that although you were standing there, you felt like you were being pushed further away. But the feeling was sort of like a catalyst, accelerating your decision. Instead of waiting and looking around, it was better to make a step and try it yourself. Therefore, before the end of 1997, perhaps around October, the script was finished. Then needed to make an effort to shoot the movie.
Zhang Yaxuan: How long was the script you wrote?
Yang Fudong: Five pages. Not very detailed. It was only a structure.
Zhang Yaxuan: Did you write it in accordance with the geographic space of Hangzhou?
Yang Fudong: Yes
Zhang Yaxuan: Was it difficult to raise money?
Yang Fudong: I was very optimistic at the time, and did not think this kind of thing would be difficult. If I liked something, 1 was hypnotized by it. If there was the tiniest opportunity, I would be happy for a whole day. If anybody promised something, I would be dreaming of it for a long time.
I believed that as long as 1 kept trying, it would be done. Looking back now, if I was a little more relaxed, 1 would not have been able to find the money, and the movie would not be finished. Of course, this only applies to the early stages of production.
Zhang Yaxuan: Did the early stages cost a lot of money?
Yang Fudong: At first it was not a lot, but later on it was. I assumed that after the shooting, the movie would be finished. But who knew that the post-production work was actually the larger part of the whole process. It was not until I started that I realized that the beginning was only a small part of it. I borrowed money from friends, and wanted to borrow money from whomever I saw. It was actually not a good thing, because it was so easy to upset my friends. At the time all of us had just graduated and started to work, and each of us had a difficult time. 1 was about twenty-six when I was making the movie. Now I know that I was too naive and inexperienced.
Zhang Yaxuan: How many people were on the crew?
Yang Fudong: A director, several actors and actresses, a cinematographer and two friends who were helping me. This was the crew. We did not record sound. All sound was added later. How could we have found the money to record sync-sound?
Zhang Yaxuan: How did you collaborate with the cinematographer?
Yang Fudong: We fought at the beginning, because I always wanted to check the frame. If it was a still shot, I would take a look at the composition of the picture. If I felt it was not bad, th en it was okay. If it was a tracking shot, 1 would look at the beginning and the end of the shot. At first
he was not used to it, and he felt that 1 intervened too much. By the middle of the shoot, our relationship improved a great deal. It is not easy to do anything, and he could understand. Also, after a while, he knew that 1 was not playing around, but seriously trying to do something. He was very professional. There was not much money, but he stayed on the job for almost a month.
Zhang Yaxuan: What was the shooting ratio?
Yang Fudong: About one to three. I was very wasteful because I had no previous experience. Although the funds were limited, we actually shot too much film, which meant less money to develop the film. But how was I to know this at the time? In a way, I made all the mistakes that you are warned about in textbooks. When making a movie, you have to have a plan. You need to budget filming and developing costs. Not to mention script supervision. It was the cinematographer who crossed off the list what had been shot. 1 didn’t even know that each shot had its own number and that each piece of film was numbered accordingly. All I knew was shooting. So it was a bit hectic, and thirteen of the rolls we developed were blank. I was so heartbroken afterwards. Well, now I just consider it as tuition.
Zhang Yaxuan: How did you find the actors and actresses?
Yang Fudong: The actor we initially chose suddenly disappeared. But everyone else was on the set and ready for shooting, so we had to look locally for somebody else. Zheng Hong, the actor you now see in the movie, is a teacher at the Hangzhou Academy of Silk Technology, and he also has a degree in oil painting. I told him that we would finish shooting in about two weeks, but how could that be possible? Everything took longer, which made him angry at me. But he is a really good guy. It eventually took about four weeks. The actresses were from art schools, mostly recommended by friends. The first was a music teacher Zheng Chunzi, the second was Qi Wei from the same college I went to but she was several years behind me, and the third was a student of Chunzi, Shen Xiaoyan. I asked them to come over to help, and they agreed immediately. Anyway, they are all really nice.
Zhang Yaxuan: Do you think they match the characters you imagined?
Yang Fudong: In a sense, I had no choice but to look for people that matched the characters as closely as possible. When I first met the actor, I was not sure if he was right for the part. Then I gave myself a couple days to contemplate the script and to comprehend its mood. When I was clear [about the script], we started to communicate.
Zhang Yaxuan: How did you collaborate with the actors and actresses?
Yang Fudong: We rehearsed and shot at the same time. I gave each of them a copy of the script. There were very few words, only one or two pages, or even half a page, for each person. Their acting was basically walking from one point to another. The rest of the time 1 just told them what to do. They tried to act with the flavor of real life. Sometimes people would joke with each other. They [the actresses] always said that he [Zheng Hong] tried too hard to be cool.
Zhang Yaxuan: Your script was very simple. Was there a lot of improvisation?
Yang Fudong: A lot, maybe one third.
Zhang Yaxuan: Did you edit the film yourself?
Yang Fudong: An older film editor helped me. He did it. He also gave me many suggestions because he was very experienced. If you told him which section you wanted to include, he would tell you which pictures fit the best. He would also give advice on specific details.
Zhang Yaxuan: The film took five years to finish. What is your strongest impression of it?
Yang Fudong: I do not feel excitement any more. On the contrary, I feel I am lost. Maybe because five years was not a short time, and many of my thoughts and feelings diverged from my original ideas. But unexpectedly my desire was revived. I wanted to make another movie.
TlME AND SPACE
Zhang Yaxuan: Did you often go to the places in the movie when you were in college?
Yang Fudong: They are all in places where I used to rent apartments, so I am familiar with them. When 1 was shooting the movie, or writing the script, I knew that if I made a movie in Hangzhou, I would go to this place and that place. I knew them by heart. Maybe because of this, I still think that many of the pictures are pretty good.
Zhang Yaxuan: Do the movie shows the Hangzhou you remember? I heard that Hangzhou has changed a lot, and it is now very different from what it is in the movie.
Yang Fudong: Not exactly. You can say that a movie is always something in your memory. When such a memory is shown in a movie, you give that memory to the audience. You cannot say that memory is an emerging point, nor a diverging point, but it gives you the feeling of both. Today Hangzhou is like a mini-Shanghai. The road that the taxi drives through in the film] does not exist anymore.
Zhang Yaxuan: So what kinds of places did you choose?
Yang Fudong: The places he [Zheng Hong] lived: the serene countryside. I chose the famous classical buildings in Hangzhou. The same went for the gardens. I wanted to make the movie sort of like the hanging calendars of the 1980s, which were very popular at the time. The pictures in the calendars were ostentatious in a sense, but from another point of view, they were perfectly beautiful. I borrowed their standards. They were precise, with no flaws. I think that Hangzhou is a beautiful city, especially in that season [rainy season]. The images have the atmosphere of early spring, a time when it starts to get a little warmer but is still chilly.
Zhang Yaxuan: Do you have a special impression of the rainy season in Hangzhou?
Yang Fudong: Hangzhou is not exactly a place to do things. Or maybe that’s the case just for me. Laziness and comfort saturate the air and there is a feeling of moody relaxation. Sometimes it may sound maudlin, but you can feel it. The rain during that season can affect your mood, but it is not an annoying rain. I like the rainy season. Everything is wet and surrounded by rain and mist.
ln terms of time, the movie gives a distant feeling. I think it is timeless and ambiguous. I don’t just feel that way because the movie was made five years ago. It was one of the effects I wanted to achieve at the time. It is like any rainy season, not from a specific year, and not with specific people. The rainy season comes every year, and everybody will have some kind of feeling or reaction to it. You may feel melancholy or happy. There is no need to anticipate. Year after year, it is always there to touch your heart. It is not possible to define a specific image.
Zhang Yaxuan: But eventually it is a movie of a specific time. If you have to define it, what kind of specific meaning does it have in terms of time?
Yang Fudong: It is connected to my generation, including our mentality and our experiences. The feelings [of our generation and of those expressed in the movie] are very similar. The movie is abstract and unfamiliar. The English word « estranged » means distant. It is sort of like you live in a place, but you do not know anything about the place.
NARRATIVE AND VISUAL LANGUAGE
Zhang Yaxuan: At the beginning of the movie, you included a long lecture on landscape painting. It seems irrelevant to the rest of the movie.
Yang Fudong: I meant to emulate documentary movies, just like the lectures on flowers and birds shown on TV. These lectures are similar to well-known adages. Lecture about them once, and they ail sound correct. I do not know if I have achieved such an effect, but it is what I intended to show to the audience. The adages are correct, even if you do not feel comfortable about them, or if you do not like them, or even if you actually like them. No matter what, they have been lectured to you and imprinted in your mind. You will eventually, at some point, appreciate what they have taught you. It is like going to school, where you are educated gradually. Many people tell you what to do and what is correct, and maybe you would think that it is meaningless. But everybody ignores the fact that all these adages are correct.
If you have to interpret the movie, isn’t it a story of a person who has nothing to do but tries to find something to do? He do es not realize that the best things are those closest to him. Or, if he cannot find the best things, he then has to learn to compromise. Actually, well-known adages, to a certain degree, should be the conclusions after compromise. They are ail correct-the things older people tell you such as truth and virtue, and the principals of being a human being. Subconsciously, people still have a lot in common, such as moral values. We are in the habit of inheriting and carrying on. Maybe you have tried to step out of it, or even tried to stand in opposition to it. You refused to acknowledge it, but eventually you have to accept it. Such is the adage. You run around in a big circle, and at the end you feel like you have not said anything. This is the underlying meaning of the movie. It is like a lecture or a proverb. It is a little boring.
Zhang Yaxuan: In terms of the narrative, your movie is about one man and his relationship with three women. His life is ambiguous and adrift, without the slightest certainty.
Yang Fudong: The movie is also an imagined feeling, a feeling that he lives a comfortable life in a nice environment in Hangzhou. In the easiest interpretation, he has a wife, a fiancé, and an understanding lover. He actually feels very good. He also has some unexpected encounters. All these feelings exist, but they somehow are not in accordance with each other.
He chooses to marry the third girl, and eventually becomes physically healthy after making the compromise. But once he recovers, his emotions become unstable. There were a lot of good things offered to him before. Once everything starts to be quiet and uneventful,
he actually becomes paranoid. Healthy is also unhealthy. To make it abstract, it is actually the contemplation and appreciation of the subconsciousness buried beneath your heart.
Zhang Yaxuan: From a different narrative angle, I think the movie has something pessimistic in it. This pessimism cannot simply be interpreted as uncertainty. To me, it comes more from the relationship between Zhuzi and hospitals, and the changes in him before and after the rainy season. You also shot images of policemen several times, which become part of the space in the movie. To understand them from Foucault’s point of view, they are ail tools to regulate society. So for me, Zhuzi’s unspeakable dis corn fort and his later change
is very special.
Yang Fudong: Sometimes I feel a bit proud of myself. This movie is different from other movies made in China. I can only give you this explanation to the feelings you described¬l knew the way I wanted to shoot this movie, and I knew the flavor I wanted to give it. I did not really think of how deep or how important it would be. I only knew the feeling l wanted to express. l watched the movie after finishing it, and I know that I more or less conveyed that feeling. Movies can speak for themselves. It is all in there.
Sometimes you have such strong emotions but you do not know how to express them. The things you said, I can feel them myself. I can even feel them very strongly, but sometimes I feel helpless in expressing them. Because 1 feel helpless, I want to express such feelings. It is a very depressing feeling. I cannot do anything even if I want to. This feeling drains you.
In fact, some plots came to me only by chance, and were not designed by me. For example, when we were shooting the girl crossing the street, to our surprise, a policeman actually followed her. When she was explaining to the policeman what she was doing, we were still shooting. We shot the scene several times, and when I looked at all of them, I instantly felt the shot with the policeman was the best. So I did not use the others. I think being inexperienced has its advantage. You do not have to follow plans . There are a lot of uncertainties when you make a movie, but they may be helpful.
Zhang Yaxuan: Zhuzi uses a blow dryer and points it to himself. This is a little offensive. Did you use the blow dryer on purpose?
Yang Fudong: Yeso Among the limited props available at the time, this was a relatively more interesting one. We shot three takes and told the actor to improvise. There were some basic moves, such as turning the blow dryer on and off, switching hands, and walking back and forth. I told him to choose the pace, just not too slow. At the time, I vaguely knew that I wanted to use indication and subtle suggestion, but what would be indicated or suggested should be very clear. The actor had his own way of going about this, including acting bored and hopeless. He did not really know what to do but still kept trying. I edited the movie in 1997, and that was it. Now, looking back on it, the movie is actually a bit silly. If I could re-do it now, I would probably take the blow dryer scene out, because in recent years this kind of straightforward expression has become too popular in art. There is too much emphasis on the conceptual, and what has been emphasized is not necessarily good.
Zhang Yaxuan: Did you try to achieve the symbolic and indirect effect we see in the movie?
Yang Fudong: I believe so. Some of the scenes have such feeling, but what they convey is not necessarily the original meaning. Some things appear again and again in the movie, such as the postman. He shows up again later, but I totally missed him when I first saw the movie. This [using of the postman] was specifically designed, but I did not do a good job with it. Nobody sees the scene clearly. I wanted to use the postman to say that on the way to the hospital, Zhuzi feels that everybody is just a stranger passing by.
Also, the girl on the pedestrian overpass is not his fiancé. My intention of having the same actress playing these two roles [the girl on the overpass and his fiancé] was to create the feeling of sameness. We go back to uncertainty. It looks like everything is changing, but they only change to become uncertain. It is like compromise in your life. I think the movie is actually a pessimistic reflection. When you are in a pessimistic mood, your life may change to fit you, but you may also have to change in order to fit into life. Once you fit into your life, you also lose the mood. This uncertainly is possibly a good thing. Subconsciously, you are looking for a normal life, but such a life is boring. You are happier but more bored.
Zhang Yaxuan: The worms are strange too. They are also repeated in the movie.
Yang Fudong: I was thinking of using some kind of slithering thing. It had to be something alive but also something that could be raised in captivity. It is hard to explain. These ideas were ail subconscious.
Zhang Yaxuan: The scenes at the beginning and at the end of the movie are in contrast with the rest of the movie. So is the rock n’ roll music. These scenes gave me a feeling of freedom, or, of not being in despair.
Yang Fudong: The music was chosen in 1997. It was by a friend’s band [Crystal Butterfly]. The music was intended to break away from the movie. I think the music is beautiful. It is called A Mysterious journey. By the end of the movie, what took place at the beginning has been compromised but the change is happy. The insane young guy at the railroad track [Gu Lei] has not changed. Actually, he is, in an incomprehensible way, the person who holds the truth.
Zhang Yaxuan: Then why did you choose the railroad tracks?
Yang Fudong: The idea only came up on location. We were waiting to shoot a train, and I saw him smoking a cigarette. I said to myself maybe we could add one scene? I asked Gu Lei: how about standing on that platform and goofing around? So we filmed him with the camera. We shot two rolls of Gu Lei and both were included in the movie. One was with Gu Lei fully clothed. In the second, I asked him to dance and jump around while gradually taking off his clothes. I included almost the entire length of negative when editing. It was more than one minute long, and went well with the music. Later, some people said that he was the best actor in the movie.
They [Zhuzi and Gu Lei] actually have two different personalities. Zhuzi (Zheng Hong) is depressed and moody, while Gu Lei is like a street boy. It is hard to describe him. He is open and straightforward, and even swears. When Gu Lei swears, I think his swearing is a way of releasing emotion. The scene means that one can persevere, perhaps unconsciously.
Zhuzi smiles in the scene with the wedding gown. When you compromise in order to fit into life, your smile is charming, but your future is uncertain. In the scene with the wedding gown, 1 meant to say that on the surface it is beautiful and satisfying. This is what everybody wants.
Zhang Yaxuan: You said that when you watch the movie now, you think some parts are a little rough. Which parts?
Yang Fudong: The part of imitating a radio broadcast. Now it seems to me a little unnatural, but several years ago, it was just the way 1 liked it. Also, the scene of the swimming pool is too weak. The part of people walking back and forth seems a little unnecessary, the same for the newspaper-reading sequence. I wanted to create a real life, and I thought it was interesting at the time. Now I think it is too simple. I was hoping to directly convey the message by using small details-people, laziness, doing chores, and being naked. Also the swimming scene. I planned to have the boy swim together with his buddies, but later changed it so the boy was watching from above, like a passer-by.
Zhang Yaxuan: I think this is a good change.
Yang Fudong: Yes, it was changed on location, and it was a good change. The bad part is when they go down to swim. The atmosphere is not strong enough. I feel the part where Zhuzi and his parents are rowing a boat is pretty good. The music is good too. l knew Jin Wang would be great. He is the composer for the movie, a star student from the Shanghai Conservatory. His music makes the movie beautiful. Maybe it would be better if the voice of the girl had sorne local accent. Putonghua [officiai Mandarin] makes it a bit unsophisticated. The scene with the girl eating ice cream is also a bit rough. The meaning is unclear and the flavor is not strong enough.
MINOR LITERATI AND MINOR INTELLECTUAL
Zhang Yaxuan: You gave a minor intellectual the name Zhuzi [literally meaning column or post]. I think it is a funny name, because it is almost the opposite or false image of a city. Does it have some symbolic meaning? Where did the name come from?
Yang Fudong: I used to have a classmate whose nickname was Zhuzi. At first I was hesitant to use the name of a friend, but l felt it sounded comfortable and right. The girl’s name, Lingshan, is actually the name of the heroine in a novel by my favorite writer, and not the Yue Lingshan in Jin Yong’s novel. Names are just symbols in any script. All the other names were picked randomly.
Zhang Yaxuan: You said your movies are about minor intellectuals. What is a minor intellectual?
Yang Fudong: The term xiao wenren [minor intellectual] is something I made up. The words feel right to me. To call it a minor intellectual movie is not to purposely differentiate it from other movies. It means that from the writer’s point of view, there is a group of special people, who may not do anything astonishing or remarkable. They may not create masterpieces but they have their own qualities. Maybe you do not notice them on a daily base and they will never be anything special, but when you suddenly discover them they are very adorable. They can touch your heart. I think minor intellectuals have this kind of spirit.
Zhang Yaxuan: You identified Zhuzi as a minor intellectual. What is your relationship with Zhuzi?
Yang Fudong: It is not a strong relationship, but we have some connections. Doesn’t everybody like to express their feelings through other people or objects? Maybe I subconsciously gave
him some of my feelings, but not directly. You may not admit such feelings, but your movies naturally have them.
Zhang Yaxuan: Are you Zhuzi? Or is Zhuzi an image of you?
Yang Fudong: This is not the case. Whether the answer is yes or no, it should be the yes of half-yes-half -no, and the no of a half-no-half-yes.
Zhang Yaxuan: Then do you think you are an intellectual?
Yang Fudong: I think l am, or at least a half intellectual. l don’t want to define it on a literal level, the level on which everybody agrees. The spirit of intellectuals is the dream you have for yourself and the sensation of chasing a dream in dreams. In other words, being an intellectual means imposing the status of being an intellectual upon oneself -that is the flavor. To assume oneself an intellectual-that is the spirit. Being an intellectual also includes the meaning imposed by others. Of course, an intellectual needs to have the spirit in himself and in his bones.
Zhang Yaxuan: How do you differentiate these intellectuals from other people?
Yang Fudong: It is the difference between the inside and the outside. You may say that he is snobby or self-absorbed. He can appreciate the spirit in himself, and you will feel the spirit when it is least expected. Similarly, each plant will have its own beauty, such as a wildflower. When the rain drops on its petals, or when the sun touches it, the flower is always beautiful. Maybe the power of such beauty is not very strong, but it will somehow touch you one day. Such is the spirit of the intellectual. The seasons are also this way. One day when you get up and take your first breath,
you know that the spring is here. A warm spring is coming but it is still a little chilly. Actually I am not the only one who has this feeling. Everybody has it. I think the closer you are to being an intellectual, the more sensitive you are. This movie is sensitive in the same way. It has something similarly touching and will move intellectuals.
Zhang Yaxuan: Don’t you like the movies made in 1930s China?
Yang Fudong: I like them a lot. I remember the time when the Central Academy of Film had several special screenings, including Clouds and Moonlight Along Eight- Thousand Li Road (Baqianli Lu), Red Flag (Hongqi Pu), Crow and Sparrow (Wuya Yu Maque), and Family-Spring¬Autumn (fia Chun Qiu). I especially liked Spring in a Small Town (Xiaocheng Zhi Chun). But Xiaocheng Zhi Chun has become trendy and overly popularized. If you follow trends, any old film is a classic nowadays.
Zhang Yaxuan: Do you think your movies are related to those old movies?
Yang Fudong: There might be some similarities, but l did not do it on purpose.
Zhang Yaxuan: If Chinese movies have traditionally been related to intellectuals, then I think your movies have inherited this cultural tradition. But at the same time, I feel they convey complex feelings. Do you have a special interest in the tradition of Chinese culture?
Yang Fudong: I do have a special interest in it, but it is more superficial than serious. Maybe I
have the love for Chinese culture, but have not really understood it. [My understanding only goes] skin deep. Yegong hao long [a Chinese proverb which describes somebody who worships dragons in theory but is terrified when he encounters a real dragon] may not be the most accurate way to describe me, but I think l may have such a « phony » tendency. I am actually proud of such artificiality in myself. Even though [my understanding of Chinese culture is] never dear, I am often completely moved by it. Something is not just a matter of inheritance, but it is a kind of emotion and love. If you prefer something, you may have developed such a preference because of your life, and how you learned it, or discovered it. The things that triggered these preferences and emotions are the result of certain traditions. They make you understand beauty, and they penetrate everything.
Zhang Yaxuan: What do you think of current Chinese movies?
Yang Fudong: Current Chinese movies need changes. This does not just apply to the movies we see. I am willing to be part of the other movies in order to propel change in film. I want to express some different ideas and feelings. Even if there is a limited audience, these movies are an undeniable part of Chinese film history. 1 do not dare say more. I just want to do it. To a certain degree, there is still an emphasis on spirit and culture. If there is a group of people doing something, th en there is some kind of spirit there. It may have little effect, but it still exists and it is part of the process of cultural development. This process is important. There is also a big group existing within or outside such spirit, and this group also has a very important and strong effect on cultural development. Many cultural movements are started by a group of pioneers who inspire many followers. Experiments may fail, but as long as there are people who try, it is always good.
Zhang Yaxuan: It took you a long time to finish the movie. What is your reaction when you see it again? Do you feel connected to it?
Yang Fudong: Very much so. I have seen the movie no less than a hundred times. 1 saw it when I was making it, by myself, and with other people. I am sort of tired of it now. Sometimes I also feel it is not so good [to see it too many times]. This is very damaging.
Zhang Yaxuan: Do you have any expectations from the audience? Do you want to show the movie to certain people, in a specific place?
Yang Fudong: It should be like a book on a bookshelf. If you don’t want to see it, it will be there. Occasionally when you see it, you feel it is kind of interesting.
Zhang Yaxuan: No matter what other people say, what do you think of your movie?
Yang Fudong: I feel at first it is a movie about intellectuals (a minor intellectual movie). It is quiet and also meaningful, and sometimes it is a bit boring. It does not just include what you see. There is also uncertainty. I am not trying to differentiate my movie from other movies, but it has a spirit and at least that is something different. It has the feeling of wandering around. It is like throwing a pebble, and circles emerge on the water. »