One of China’s greatest living filmmakers, Jia Zhangke, has joined six other directors from around the globe for a short film project commissioned by Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
The project is called Spaces #2. It’s the second in the series, logically, after Spaces #1 which included eight films by Greek directors. For Spaces #2, the globally-renowned directors took inspiration from themes surrounding Covid-19 and the book Species of Spaces by French novelist Georges Perec.
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Jia’s short is called Visit and is an eerily quiet piece that focuses in on the quirks and sounds associated with human interaction during Covid-19. Jia himself is one of the two main characters in the short, along with an unnamed visitor.
The short opens with a visitor knocking on a door as birds crow in the background. The door eventually opens and the music contracts and we hear what sounds like a gun being cocked. In fact a thermometer is being pulled out. The visitor’s temperature is taken before he enters into the home.
At one point, the director’s visitor attempts to shake hands with Jia. The camera catches a quick adjustment in Jia’s posture over his shoulder, before focusing in on the errant hand and panning up to the visitor’s face, which is half-hidden behind a face mask. The camera turns back to Jia, who is looking down at the hand, before panning down to show him offering an elbow in lieu of a hand.
The short is full of moments like this, which provide the dramatic plot points. We also catch a gorgeous moment, when a black and white Jia looks out the window onto a vibrant technicolor scene, describing the dreary reality of being stuck inside all day.
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Visit ends with the pair sitting and sipping tea while watching a scene with a packed crowd of people undulating against each other. The image of people crowded together like sardines stands in stark contrast to Jia and his visitor, as they sit on either side of a projector wearing their pale white face masks.
Coming in at just over four minutes, the short is, well, short. It’s also sharp, dramatic and wryly witty and, according to the New York Times, took just one day to make on a cell phone.
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