01: Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks - Rails

29 March, 2018 - 14:30

West of the Tracks presents us with the panoramic spectacle of progress collapsing. Industry folds and empties its plants; workers lose their jobs and their benefits; people are idle and demoralized, and then they are unhoused, and they demolish their own former dwellings to cash in on their value as scrap; people scavenge among gargantuan ruins that loom like the remnants of a forgotten civilization of giants. It is every twentieth-century mural depiction of the struggle for the good life – socialist or capitalist – viewed in reverse. It is as if the film were being run backwards, or like the last lines of Rilke’s Duino Elegies: “And we, who think of happiness / as rising, would feel the emotion / that nearly overwhelms us / when a happy thing falls.” (Luc Sante)

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks - part 3

Wang Bing

Part III: Rails tells the story of the old freight railway that links the factories of the Tiexi district together, and of two men: Du Xiyun and his son, unemployed scavengers living at the fringes of society, who depend upon the railway for their livelihood. As Du Xiyun and his son struggle to cope with changes in the world around them and to maintain some control over their own destinies, their friends working for the state-owned railways continue going through the empty motions of their jobs, absurdly, as if frozen in an era long since past.


Mandarin with English subtitles