Who is Mrs. Fang
? At the beginning of the Locarno Golden Leopard-winning documentary that bears her name, she is a Chinese woman in her sixties waiting in a hallway. We get no context here, nor in the next shot, as she reacts to a bad smell outside and darts off camera, nor in the next, when she’s standing in a dingy room with two beds in it as well as a fridge, while another figure bustles around with a kettle. Then, across a single, brutal cut, we’re with her some months later, and she now occupies one of the beds. Her advanced Alzheimer’s has shriveled the skin onto her bones, and her face is almost unrecognizable, lips drawn back in a constant rictus, teeth exposed like those in a skull.
Over the course of Chinese director Wang Bing’s atypically short but typically unflinching, challenging, provocative film, we will watch her die.