The World 世界 (2004)

Release Date: 4 September 2004

Directed by: Jia ZhangKe 贾樟柯

Country: China

The World or Shi Jie (as it’s pronounced in Chinese) tells the story of multiple characters that work at a theme park in BeiJing called “World Park”. The movie mainly focuses on the development of Tao and TaiSheng’s relationship but unlike normal films, The World felt more like a documentary, featuring their day-to-day lives.

Both the title and the opening mise-en-scène of the movie contained the word “World” as if indicating that the movie shows how globalisation and modernisation has affected the everyday lives of Chinese citizens. World Park’s attractions consists of Twin Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and more, allowing visitors to see the world without having to leave BeiJing showing how much China has grown and developed from its communist roots.

An irony is that even though the characters are shown to be technologically connected, they are all disconnected from one another, with numerous misunderstandings surfacing as a result of miscommunication. An example of this was when Tao saw a text message from Qun to TaiSheng saying that Qun managed to obtain a Visa and that their (Qun & TaiSheng) meeting was was destined. This text message led Tao to believe that TaiSheng had cheated on her causing her to leave.

At the end of the movie, it is shows the two of them seemingly dying to a gas leak (technology related too!), this seemed to me as if the gas leak was representative of the pollution caused by the rapid industrialisation, modernisation and globalisation of China which has a detrimental effect on its citizens and China’s environment.

Another thing to note is that around the late 1990s, China began its rapid urbanisation plans. With that in mind, if we review the last two lines of the movie: TaiSheng asking “are we dead?” and Tao replying “No, this is only the beginning”. It was as if he was asking what had become of the China that they grew up with. Furthermore, ZhangKe has been in trouble with the authorities for mocking the current modern state of China for trying to become too much like the current state of Western civilization and society. Hence, Tao’s reply could be interpreted as “this is only the beginning of the erosion of the old Chinese culture and infrastructure”.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Sandra G. says:

    Interesting point about the irony in the use of technology in this film. Jia has definitely opened our eyes to how a modernisation pace too quick in a country that still adopts certain ideologies and laws from its communist era has adverse social and economic effects. As an artist who grew up in China, Jia has experienced firsthand the issue we are all familiar with – censorship. Tao and her friends, like Jia, are trapped in a world where their lines are already written and all they have to do is to perform. The irony of this irony is that Jia, as a filmmaker, yearns to show his Chinese audience the world, but is ultimately doing so through the down-sized World Park, also known as “imperial property” to be protected.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. celhxr says:

    It is true that the World Park’s miniature attractions of landmarks from different countries is a representation of its growth and it really shows how much it has developed. However, I feel that China is moving too fast and more than it can handle. You mentioned the technology connection and the gas leak. I feel that because China is moving at such a rapid pace, several advancements are not done properly and one example would be the gas leak. China’s rapid modernisation could be the cause of social issues within China, issues which Jia Zhang Ke is clearly trying to highlight. Also, with regards to your interpretation of the film’s ambiguous ending, I agree that it could be Jia Zhang Ke mocking China for trying so hard to become like the West, losing its very own culture and identity in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I personally like your review, especially how you address about technology. It explains that although they appear to be technologically ready, they are actually not. China wants a fast change, but the residents are not ready for the rapid modernization. I am also confused with the ending, and I like your interpretation about the ending. I agree that t it could be the beginning of the erosion of the infrastructure, meaning that the disaster that happens around them at that time will be nothing compared to the disasters (or stress) that would happen to China in years to come. I like the idea of the modernization of China, but its rapid growth made the impression that China wants to outgrow the West.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sofiaaa says:

    I like your analysis on the use of technology in the film. It is indeed true that while technology connects one and another, it can easily cause a rift as well. While technology brings boon to the world, there are banes too – such as the increasingly problematic gas leaks in China. Although China is undergoing rapid urbanization, inevitably there will still be some areas stuck in the past ages.
    The interpretation of the ending is very well-thought out. Perhaps Jia Zhangke is placing an emphasis on the loss of Chinese culture, reminding the Society that the country is losing its essence, in its chase of the shadows of the West. Overall, a very succinct and interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. rogerteo5 says:

    Hello Yi Huai!
    Firstly I love how you talk about the irony of characters being connected through technology but yet at the same time disconnected. I guess this could be in a way the director’s method of telling its viewers how technology could never really replace actual human to human interaction. And with technology being part of the package from modernization.
    Actually I myself did not quite get the ending, but after reading through your review, your take on it seemed rather plausible and I knew Jia Zhangke had censorship issues with the government due to his films directions. Great analysis overall!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nicholella says:

    Hi Yi Huai! I must say that this is an awesome analysis! It clearly facilitated the reader’s understanding on how China has always been seen by its own people. I particularly like how you highlighted that this film carries a more serious tone since it felt more like a documentary to you. No doubt, subtle insinuations were made throughout the film suggesting how China’s citizens may have been oppressed, therefore lacking the opportunity to travel freely. It is interesting how you pointed out your observation pertaining to gas leak scene being related to the constant air pollution in China. Despite its rapid progress, it is clear that the country and its citizens were unable to keep up with its pace since the effort to curb with industrial pollution is still relatively passive. Awesome read with great observation! Will definitely be back for more!

    Cheers Nic

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jonlwch says:

    China’s rapid urbanization has definitely caused many problems for it’s people. Your analysis of ending’s deep symbolism was an interesting point that I wanted to comment on. The erosion of Chinese Heritage in the pursuit of modernization is a highly controversial topic that is still being discussed to this day. Do we value our past and culture or is the future where we should place our attention? A balance of the two is preferable but given the choice, would you choose to keep an old building that does not provide any other benefit for the sake of preserving your culture or do you forsake your cultural identity in an attempt to live the same world as everyone else?

    Liked by 1 person

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