A Review of Hye Hean Chung's "Media Heterotopias: Digital Effects and Material Labor in Global Film Production"
Literature and Languages
Beijing World Park—which opened in 1993 with much fanfare—boasts of its inclusion of over one hundred “famous scenic spots and historical sites” of the world in miniature. As tourists walk through the outdoor park’s grounds, they are promised “the world” without having to leave Beijing.1 In a single visit, they might chance upon the Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the moai of Easter Island. Jia Zhangke’s film The World (2004) takes place in the park and tells the story of two of its employees, Tao and Taisheng. As Hye Jean Chung puts it in Media Heterotopias, the lives of the economically precarious Tao and Taisheng reveal “the empty promises of economic, social, and geographical mobility that are falsely projected by the ersatz globality of the park” (156). In the end, the characters perish together in a gas leak in a scene that Chung deftly interprets as deeply ambivalent. Their deaths, shrouded by shadows and the screen turning to black, “enabl[e] them to transcend visual forms of mediated representations,” as Tao’s disembodied voice asserts: “this is just the beginning” (157).
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