YIDFF 2017 International Competition
Lone Existence
An Interview with Sha Qing (Director)

To Think About the Meaning of Life Is To Live

Q: The film opens with a gloomy ambience—was there a specific event that led you to make this film?

SQ: When I was thinking about what kind of film I would make next, I caught sight of a host of people gathered at a funeral. I saw them walking silently and calmly, dressed in dark clothes, and my head was suddenly filled with the question, “What does it mean to live?” How can they go on living such dull and uninteresting lives? Life has its delights, but I feel that it also has a lot of suffering. At first, I tried to find the answer to that question or conflict in books. But, ultimately, I am a film director, so I came to the conclusion that it would be better to use images to convey my thoughts on human life. I observed others because I thought that, by watching their everyday lives, I could spot the events that would become their reasons for living. This film redevelops Fading Reflections, a film that I completed in 2010. Back then, I was terrified of exposing myself. But ever since I had a brush with death, I’ve been more courageous about expressing myself. That’s why I included text in the scene this time.

Q: Did you insist on any techniques for filming? It seemed like your state of mind as a director might be reflected in things like the frequent use of long shots.

SQ: The people I filmed at a distance were not conscious of the camera, and so, they went about their business naturally. There’s also the fact that I’m the kind of person who prefers to observe people at a distance. In the scene where a crowd of people are gathered around a bonfire, going around it in circles, I move closer to the subjects to film them, and perhaps, this embodies my sense of having momentarily died and being born again. This film doesn’t have much raw video footage, which is about thirty hours in total. A great deal of those images are ones that I took intuitively, so it’s difficult to put into words what my intentions were at the time. What’s more, I am afraid that I will obscure the essence of the images by putting them into words. The ideal situation would be for the audience to think freely about what the images make them feel. There wasn’t a lot of raw materials, but the editing took two years. I am, of course, particular about the way that images are arranged, but with my work, I’ve been involved with audio recording, so I was also very particular about how the sound was handled. However, it was not like I had meticulously planned out which sound would go with which scene, or at what point I would include something. Rather, I did the editing on instinct. Instead of puzzling out what a scene meant, I put greater emphasis on how I could connect those scenes and produce something new.

Q: Were you able to find an answer to the question, “What does it mean to live?” which was the catalyst for making this film?

SQ: While I was making this film, there was a period where I couldn’t focus on editing, and I read a lot of books about human life. There’s a reference to this kind of thing in Tolstoy’s books, but the answer is never explicitly stated. Quite possibly, there is no definite answer. But surely, the act of thinking about the meaning of life is itself a part of human life. Currently, I’ve chosen as themes the meaning of life, as well as the interpersonal relationships built in the midst of delight and suffering.

(Compiled by Yoshioka Yuki)

Interviewers: Yoshioka Yuki, Sakurai Hidenori / Interpreter: Nakayama Hiroki / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Satsusa Takahiro / Video: Okawa Akihiro / 2017-10-07