• First Film Competition



Wang ChuYu

To bear witness, tell the story, to re-examine history, the things that have been forgotten and those that are left unsaid. The task that Wang ChuYu tackles with Person, his first film, is ambitious. The story is that of Taiwan’s history, revisited through a man, Mo-lin Wang, founder of the Taiwan Artist Theatre. The film is made up of two alternating scenes composed of two visual and narrative registers. First, we hear Wang’s narrative, in which he recalls his political career and its twists and turns – from Taiwan to mainland China via Japan. It is the journey of a left-wing man, a utopian, who was a Communist for a time. As his story unfolds, on screen a group of workers is busy erecting a wooden structure. The other scene is built on a text by the same Mo-lin Wang, The Waste Land – a title taken from T.S. Eliot’s famous epic poem – which two figures glimpsed at behind a canvas are reading and commenting on. The screen becomes both a veil and a page, a surface for inscriptions. This staging bias plays on the contradictions of a text in which the author primarily returns to years past. Filter? Scenery? Scaffolding? Metaphors, one suspects. The readings link together, the words echo each other or go out of sync in a fascinating pas de deux. History has multiple movements, like the ways in which it is presented. The author’s questioning jostles from one scene to another: the recent political history of Taiwan, Mao’s China and the triumphant capitalism of the 1980s, the history of nationalism, martial law, communist utopia, socialism and the defeat of Tiananmen Square. A reflection on the possible role, from this point on, of the notion of the person. A story with fiery echoes, which “little by little is becoming the dog turd that everyone’s avoiding”, in the words of Mo-lin Wang. Wang ChuYu sketches it out as a drama of talking ghosts and mute bodies – those of the workers in action, in counterpoint to the speech emanating from an absent body.
(Nicolas Feodoroff)

Interview with Wang ChuYu

Focusing on the personal and political trajectory of Wang Mo-lin, Person plunges us into the history of China and Taiwan over the last decades, from the birth of PRC. How did this project come up?

Wang Mo-lin was born in Taiwan in 1949. Taiwanese left-wing avant-garde theater director, mainly engaged in theater and performance art. He is a good friend of mine and we have collaborated many times in performance art and theater. Since he was young, he had placed his belief of existence, social cognition, practice and ultimate concern on Marxist theory and communist ideal. When he was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, he turned to Christianity. As a friend, I have embraced the unique coexistence of these two faiths. And how is the spiritual process of such a body accomplished?
This got me thinking: Who is the Wang Mo-lin I know? This conversation with Wang Mo-lin was recorded after 2015, after which the concept and structure of the film, including the design of the title and the final title, was completed through consultation with Mr. Shi Lei, the producer. In my association with Wang Mo-lin for more than ten years, he has brought me a lot of inspiration and reflection on life, body and social ideology. His existence made me feel the link between a person and the physical destiny of the whole era.

In order to evoke his history, you have developed a multi-level apparatus. First of all, a scenography as simple as it is rigorous, with the characters behind the canvas, mixing discussions and readings turned towards the past. Why did you come to this?

The part of the canvas that forms the silhouette is the background time and space line of the historical ghost of the film. It is an experiment on the representation of “image text”. I want it to be hidden behind the text. The script readings and impromptu discussions between the two actors on set were filmed in one shot. I didn’t set up this kind of historical, memory awareness. It’s up to the actors themselves to do this interpretation and extension. Because these social and historical memories are the same and the same for me and the actor.

Where does this text come from? Why is it necessary today?

Here the two actors read and discuss a script from Wang Mo-lin’s play “The Badlands.” This drama is a comprehensive recollection and reflection of the ups and downs of the fate of the left-wing figures in Taiwan in the 1980s. I want to construct another expression platform with text as the main body through this form. The 1980s was the most important scene in Wang’s life. It is also an important stage in China’s national destiny.

Throughout the film, you return to a complex history, evoking utopias and disappointments, that some would like to simplify. According to what needs?

“Communism” is on the wane. But the reality of Today’s China is still profound, and each of us in it continues to pay a heavy price for the disillusionment of this “utopian” society chosen through national history. And that cost still haunts today and the future.

There are also all these scenes where we see workers building a rather enigmatic structure. How did you come to this choice? And why the absence of sound, but only the voice-over of Wang Mo-lin?

I hired three construction workers at random in the roadside labor market. This abstract wooden frame building was completely constructed and dismantled by the three workers themselves in an unconscious way. I designed this video form of performance art to form a parallel development space with Wang Mo Lin’s conversation. It’s both separate and relevant. The relationship between these two parts is even entirely emotional. There is no necessary logic.

Except for the workers who are at work but mute, the bodies are partially or totally invisible, and you separate body and voice. Why?

I asked the cameraman to shoot the process of the workers’ construction impromptu. It is to let the audience track one thing visually while listening to Wang Mo Lin’s narration, because Wang Mo Lin’s narration is another construction process. In this way, the body and sound do not interfere with each other to complete the integration of vision and hearing. In this film, I used three parallel time and space lines: One is Wang Mo-lin’s conversation. The second is the historical invisible space for reading and discussing the play of “The Badlands”. The third is the scene image space built by workers. This is my way of discussing the formation of images for art projects.

Interview by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • First Film Competition

Technical sheet

China / 2021 / 90’

Original version : chinese
Subtitles : english, chinese
Script : Wang ChuYu
Photography : Chen Bo
Editing : Wang ChuYu
Sound : Wang ChuYu

Production : Shi Lei (Beijing Dengxin Culture Media Co LTD)

Filmography :
Possessed, 2021
Ants Dynamic, 2020.