An Interview with Lin Xin (Director)
People Are Born from Earth, and Return to Earth
Q: You are a painter, but why did you decide to portray this town through “cinema”?
LX: Before painting, I wrote poetry. I embarked on artistic expression when my parents passed away, and I felt that the transience of life was like a single flower. After that, I accepted that “all life comes from the earth and is hence equal,” and painted abstract works based on images of the atom. I express myself artistically based on my ideas, and in the film the images of earth are the concept of life itself. When I encountered the town of Chen Lu, I had an irrepressible feeling that “I have to do this now!” Since the Cultural Revolution, China has been gradually losing its culture of long ago, and the traditional townscape is disappearing as well. It is a crisis situation. I picked up the camera for the first time in order to deal with this fact. First, I took a heap of photographs, and as a result this film was completed.
Q: I am interested in what kind of pictures you paint.
LX: A lot of my works link together abstractions of parts of a person. Hand, leg, eye, chest . . . . I am expressing that the entire body is made up of atomic parts. All of my materials are manufactured in China. The paper is handmade, and I paint with pigments. Before I used a lot of yellow, but it is toxic and damaged my eyes, and my style has changed, and now my works have a lot of brown and black. Creation is about “inspiration” and “vigor,” and I stay up all night over several days to complete my work.
Q: That kind of painting sounds similar to your film.
LX: The dried earth in the opening is exactly that. The grey earth cracks, and becomes a black line. That looks exactly like calligraphy. It’s only to be expected, given that writing originally emerged from nature like this . . .
Q: The cutting of the images have a sense of rhythm, and the flowing landscape left a big impression.
LX: I have seen all of Ozu Yasujiro’s films, and I also feel a kind of “calm beauty” in Kawabata Yasunari and Higashiyama Kaii’s works. They were a major inspiration. I had the feeling that this kind of “calm beauty” might be vanishing in present-day Japan, but coming to Japan and visiting Yamagata has reassured me. Because the “beauty of Japan” that I imagine still exists here in Yamagata. My works have an awareness of the concept of “emptiness” in Eastern philosophy. In this piece, I paid close attention to a rhythm like the flow of nature. In the editing, I used sounds that I actually heard at each location, including the sounds of the breeze and trees, and people’s movements. Earth, ashes . . . . I think this piece allows you to feel the vitality that exists within calmness, precisely because the film expresses that everything lives equally. I live with an awareness that good things belong to all human beings and are our common property.
Q: What are you planning for your next work?
LX: Shortly I will complete a work about people working in a mine. In the future, I want to continue impartially filming people who are earnestly living at the bottom rungs of society, and things that are being lost before they vanish. I am already eager to participate in the next YIDFF, a wonderfully organized festival of the highest caliber.
(Compiled by Tsukamoto Junko)
Interviewers: Tsukamoto Junko, Nishizawa Satoshi / Interpreter: Endo Nakako
Photography: Nishizawa Satoshi / Video: Yamaguchi Mika / 2005-10-11