Jia Zhangke’s film as impure cinema—Travelling through gardens as well as memories

Written by Mengqi Zhang

“A core aesthetic principle of the Chinese garden is the orchestration of constantly changing images created by the walking subject.” (Pang, 2006, 66)

An example which shows this would be The World (2004) and Cry Me a River (2008) by Jia Zhangke. They present the aesthetic of Chinese garden architectures through the tension and union of the mobility of film shots and the immobility of the film spectators. Following with the moving characters and cameras, the spectators see the river, hills, plants, corridors in gardens, landmarks of the world in Beijing World Park and thus, a spatial journey is organised.

An unique point that Jia Zhangke makes through this spatial journey, especially in The World, is the concept of “seeing the world without ever leaving Beijing” visiting Beijing World Park. It evokes the sense of, according to Mello, “to bring the world to China, rather than to see or conquer the world” (2014, p70). It involves with a consideration of Chinese’s current status and the attitudes towards the world.


The official website of Beijing World Park

Like other films of Sixth Generation directors in China, Jia Zhangke’s films focus on the concern about human’s struggling between their status and memories, as well as a sense of lost of past both of characters and the country. The impurity of cinema is then revealed by “filmic psychogeography” (Mello, 2014, p200). When travelling through gardens in Jia Zhangke’s films, characters and spectators are travelling through memories.


Pang, L. (2006). Walking into and out of the spectacle: China’s earliest film scene. Screen, 47 (1), 66-80.

Mello, C. Jia Zhangke’s Cinema and Chinese Garden Architecture. In Nagib, L. and Jerslev, A. (2014). Impure Cinema: intermedial and intercultural approaches to film. London, New York. 183-202.

a824a’s channel.(2010). Cry Me A River by Jia Zhangke Part 2/2. Youtube. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fofGCH5nGhM [Accessed 05 March 2017].

Kiefer, J.(2013). A little part of “The World”. Youtube. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1Yfy3QNRbQ [Accessed 05 March 2017].

Beijing World Park Official Website http://www.beijingworldpark.com.cn [Accessed 05 March 2017].


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