L’homme Sans Nom (2009) (Man With No Name)
A refreshing and welcome relocation for Wang Bing from the decrepit industrial landscapes of post-Mao China, Man With No Name (2009) finds the director pointing his ever curious, never condescending, hand-held digital camera towards the eponymous, anonymous man living in a deserted wasteland in an unnamed part of the country. A Dersu Uzala incarnate, he lives in an underground shanty – an earthen igloo – in this harsh and otherworldly geography that seems to be entirely cut off from civilization, save for some broken plastic containers that the man uses. From an anthropological perspective, Wang Bing’s account is the idea of man being reduced to his most rudimentary elements. This unnamed man is largely seen taking care of his basic needs – food, clothing and shelter. But, additionally, he also appears to have developed an aesthetic need and we see him compacting heaps of earth and mending the mud walls of his neighbourhood during his “free time”. However, such a reading runs the risk of undermining the political question that the work raises. The moment a film relates one person to another, it goes political. And films such as Man With No Name become political by, ironically, being exceptions to that rule – politicization due to resistance to it. The man in Bing’s film is also a political concept, a new man who refuses to leave the (literal and figurative) womb of the earth, a man who, like Lisandro Alonso’s woodcutter, has seemingly succeeded in freeing himself from all ideology and leading a genuinely self-sustained life.