Fang Xiuying is 67 years old. She is on her deathbed in a small village in the south of China, surrounded by family, friends and neighbours. As those around her discuss whether she is awake or sleeping, where she should be buried and when she will breathe her last, she stares – eyes and mouth wide open – at an indefinable spot on the wall. She sinks further and further away. "Like a boat on the river", one of the bystanders comments.
Wang Bing, whose ground-breaking epic Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks kicked up a storm 15 years ago, points his camera with striking frequency at Mrs Fang’s infinite gaze in this short, intimate documentary. What is she thinking about? Her two children perhaps – or has the Alzheimer’s that appeared nine years previously wiped out every memory? A contemplative, poignant, almost meditative film, winner of the Golden Leopard in Locarno.