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Dead Souls excavates a government's sins with personal accounts that preserve the past while illuminating the problems of the present.
All Critics (21)
| Top Critics (7)
| Fresh (21)
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In addition to being a work of memory that brings the past imaginatively to light, "Dead Souls" is a film of resistance that, in discussing the past, also confronts the present-day activities of the Chinese government.
Like a monolith, this thing just is. It also just happens to be great, sometimes despite and sometimes because of its mega-sized breadth and scope.
Even the modest settings - a floral cushion here, a scattered piece of clothing or unmade bed there - give us a sense of the texture of these lives.
Wang's film is a vital excavation of history in danger of being eroded away.
Beyond just capturing and filing memories, Wang is after how his subjects process their trauma, how they frame the horror of their experiences, and how they've coped with survivors' guilt.
Charting the origins, operations and outcomes of a far-flung Chinese labor camp in the late 1950s/early 1960s, the documentary offers affecting and harrowing accounts from those who survived the gulag.
Essential, if sobering work
An incredibly guilt-ridden film, the experience of surviving such a traumatic, world-shattering trauma is squarely on the film's mind, turning Wang Bing's latest film into a harrowing masterpiece.
By the end, viewers will be emotionally broken down, struck by the enormity of the events described; in this way they might touch on the experience of those whose stories it tells.
An essential document of survivor testimony that stands as China's answer to Shoah.
Dead Souls joins such works as Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (to which Wang's film has been speciously compared) and Patricio Guzmán's The Battle of Chile as a vast memorial to state barbarity.
Taken together, it's an overwhelming and damning portrait, but the film's power lies in heartbreaking, idiosyncratic and overlapping details.
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