By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
Following the lives of young Yingying and her smaller siblings, left alone for months without parents and coping with survival and hard labor, Three Sisters obsessively depicts the paths traversed and the monotonous rituals of these three children: a desolate view of a small village on the high mountains on the Yunnan, province of China.
It’s equally impressive and devastating to watch how this small child and her siblings battle against the difficulties of the life they have to deal with, walking with hollowed shoes across the difficult landscape of the highlands, collecting animal dung to make fire for their meals, almost completely abandoned for half of the film. Bing is incisive in this two hours and a half feature film, merging with the small family as an almost invisible being and choosing the handheld camera not as a resource of the spectacle of misery, but as the unaltered proof of a horizontal and crude view of reality. This lingering camera, subjugated to the characters movements, captures, follows, it’s observational and referential, never looks down on the kids (something which might have taken an important effort from the filmmaker and his crew), always follows course, and in doing so, appropriates an articulation of image where the landscape and their inhabitants share a common point of reference.
The length of the film allows for contemplation, space for reflection, immersion in the story. Bing is well aware of that, as most of his features share this common practice. Yet no minute seems to be wasted, no moment seems out of place, the raw story sinks in deep in the viewer: one tries to find an inspiring moment, and there are plenty around to redeem these characters and their attitude towards life, but the social commentary, deeply inserted in the filmmaker intention of portraying this reality is far more overwhelming.
In a way, Three Sisters becomes a testament for this dichotomous view of China, as the mountain landscapes of Yunnan allows for space of contemplation against a secret story untold in the film, the one which disappears in the road, where Yingying’s father leaves for a job which he won’t find: the industrialized cruel apparatus of a modern country.
Director: Wang Bing
Producers: Mao Hui, Sylvie Faguer
Editor: Fu Kang
Hong Kong, France