Release Date: 4 September 2004
Directed by: Jia ZhangKe 贾樟柯
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”.