The World

2004 [CHINESE]


IMDb Rating 7.1/10 10 3533 3.5K


Top cast

720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.25 GB
Chinese 2.0
24 fps
2 hr 19 min
Seeds 3
2.33 GB
Chinese 2.0
24 fps
2 hr 19 min
Seeds 14

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by noralee 8 / 10

A Sad Picture of How Modernization is The Same the Whole World Over

"The World (Shijie)" is one of the saddest films I've ever seen and is a moving visualization of the tragedy of rising expectations.

While it is set very particularly in China, it achingly proves the universality of the twin globalization pulls of modernization and immigration over the past three hundred years around the world, recalling films from "Hester Street" to "The Emigrants (Utvandrarna)," and films about cities in throes of developmental change, like "Atlantic City."

These are universally recognizable young people - they rebel against and yet feel tied to their families and regretfully break ties with old friends; they fight with their siblings but bail them out; they get lonely, a bit homesick, and bored; they are jealous and ambitious; and they constantly compromise, particularly the women bargaining with the oldest currency. With what is a bit heavy-handed symbolism, the film is specifically set in what I presume is a real amusement park called "The World" on the outskirts of Beijing that replicates landmarks in scaled miniature and focuses on the employees and their extended, inter-connected network of friends and family.

At first, they look to us as swaggering city sophisticates, as they dress-up in international costumes for a park revue, surrounded by emblems of international commercial culture, like fake Louis Vuitton bags and movie posters, such as of "Titanic," They jealously and zealously call each other constantly by the most modern cell phone and text messengers, particularly from the encircling monorail that at first seems like a symbol of modern technology, but is really cobbled together from airplane parts--though one woman wistfully notes that she doesn't know anyone who has been on a plane- a frequent response to a call is "I'm on the train." -- but by the end the canned voice of progress is emblematic of the dead end circularity of their lives as they can't get passports to leave, let alone to see the real landmarks.

Travel is a constant theme visually and of conversation - when a country bumpkin shows up, the surprised greeting is "How did you get here?" such that "I bought a ticket." is not self-evident. -- to the security guards riding camels around the fake pyramids and horses around the fake castles, to the six hour bus ride it takes to another city to pay off a relative's gambling debts, and emphasized through fanciful animated interstices. The ironic geographical headings of the chapters emphasize a character's quixotic goal -- "", "Ulan Bator Evening," "Belleville", "Tokyo Story." Striving as they all are, for these folks even Ulan Bator, the depressed capital of Mongolia, looks like a step up.

There are moving scenes when immigrants with different languages try to communicate to share the commonalities in their lives -- a Russian immigrant is terrified when her passport is taken away, while the Chinese woman is envious that she even has one.

It is a bit confusing keeping up with the various characters, in and out of their work costumes, especially when the two main characters seemed to change so much without explanation, but they are enormously sympathetic so it is devastating as we see their hopes and dreams, however unrealistic or selfish, defeated. And those who succeed do so on very compromised terms.

They are also not very articulate, which writer/director Zhang Ke Jia compensates for by spending a lot of time slowly setting up individual scenes and watching people interact, as we see how different they are in different contexts with different people, as body language becomes more important than words, whether spoken or in text messages.

While the cinematography was beautiful, the print I saw in New York was a bit scratchy and the English subtitles had several misspellings. I'm sure subtitle-dependent viewers lose a lot of the significance of different accents and regional differences among the employees from all over China.

Reviewed by howard.schumann 8 / 10

Big budget and glossy special effects

Jia Zhangke's The World, his first state supported film, continues his look at the disillusionment of Chinese youth with Western-style globalization but shifts the setting from a rural to an urban environment. Young people work at Beijing's 114-acre "World Park", a sprawling Chinese Disneyland that displays scale models of famous landmarks such as The Eiffel Tower, The Pyramids of Egypt, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Taj Mahal, and The Vatican. For most of the low-paid employees, however, it is the closest they will ever come to seeing the world. Jointly produced by the Shanghai Film Group Corporation and Hong Kong's Xinghui Production Company, The World, unlike his previous independent work (Unknown Pleasures, Platform), has a big budget, glossy special effects, animation sequences, colorfully costumed song and dance routines, and uncharacteristic melodramatic plot contrivances.

The film's main protagonists are young Chinese who have come to the city from rural areas to find work at the theme park and come in contact with migrants, petty criminals, and other lowlife characters who seem to thrive in this consumer-centered environment. The plot consists of the turbulent love affair between a dancer named Tao (Zhao Tao) who performs in lavish shows at the park and a security guard named Taisheng (Chen Taisheng) who has trouble remaining faithful to her. Zhao Tao, who has appeared in other Jia films, is sparkling in her role as the dancer whose horizons become more and more constricted. When she tells him, 'You're my whole life.' he replies, 'You can't count on anyone these days. Don't think so much of me.' As critic David Walsh points out, "all the young people have great trouble expressing their emotions to one another; they prefer cell-phones and text messages. The picture of a terribly repressed and repressive society, with vast problems and contradictions, begins to emerge".

The employees live in overcrowded dorms or sleazy hotels and a group of Russian performers have their passports taken away when they arrive and some are forced to become prostitutes. In a heartbreaking sequence, Tao's brother Erxiao is arrested by the police for petty theft, and his brother, a construction worker known as "little sister", experiences a distressing industrial accident. Jia presents the world in small episodes, similar he says to the "way you use a computer-you click here, you click there, each time leading you to another location." The vignettes, however, did not come together for me as a totally satisfying experience and the animation effects seemed showy. The World has stunning visuals and relevant social commentary and I'm happy to see Jia achieve a wider audience by working through the system, but by the end of The World, I felt that the sharp edge of his previous films had been lost.

Reviewed by uwmasianfilm-1 8 / 10

The World Park of Modern China

While this film is radically different from Jia's earlier films it still packs the same cultural criticism wallop. A commentary on the urbanization of modern day China, Jia has moved into the slick world of government approved film-making without losing touch with the direction of his earlier films. It is tempting to watch the film superficially and dismiss it as a glossy state approved image. However, from my perspective, what is happening in the film is much more subtle; it is form of art-making that is particular to China and its authoritarian governing systems through history.

Practically speaking China has never enjoyed freedom of expression for its artists and writers. In order to get around censorship that came from absolute monarchies or dictatorships artists and writers would use subtle inter-textual messages. For instance, a line or radical would be left out a character to slightly change the meaning within the text. The head radical might be left out of a character describing the emperor to indicate the writers desire that the emperor be beheaded, or something along those lines. They were small enough messages that sympathizers would pick up on them, but a censor (censors usually not being the brightest or most creative people around) would miss it.

It is my opinion that Jia Zhangke is doing something along these lines with this film. It may not be as subtle as the messages have historically been, but a close reading clearly conveys something the government wouldn't be happy with. The Chinese government would like for the world to see them as metropolitan, glitzy, shiny, and new, so Jia, in this first film of his with government backing, uses cinema-scope, modern techno beats, computer animation and up-to-date electronics. But under the glitz is the reality screaming to get through the World Park facade. It is dirty and personal. There is prostitution, crime, and pirate copiers (maybe the theme here is modern Chinese society, as promoted by the government and big business, that is the pirated copy of the rest of the world). The subsistence living youth can all have cell phones, but for all their text messaging they don't seem to be able to communicate. Basically Jia seems to say that the Chinese youth are headed for a future of oblivion under the current direction of their country. It is hard to disagree with him. But at least he he leaves a morsel of hope in the end of it all.

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