For Mainland Chinese viewers who are new to Sun Xun’s work, Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined Yet In The Revolution offers an unforgettable experience, akin to a waking dream. Coursing through the film’s narrative is the logic of dreams, its landscape a torrent of ineffable, dark emotions. The soundtrack— created by Jin Shan— only amplifies these feelings. Like fallen fragments, the film’s visual elements come directly from life, as everyday images and organisms. Yet under Sun’s cool and fractional treatment, these quotidian abstractions— detached from the circumstances under which they arise— become symbols that are eerie and parched of emotion. Propelled by the music, the viewer is aware of being led somewhere, but upon arrival, there is no dark and gloom, no end of days. At the narrative climax, the corresponding images show the resolution of raw desire, yet this sexual profusion does not communicate a sense of climax or release, but instead, Freud’s death instinct, Thanatos. Then, one by one, animals that haunt the putrid corners— flies, roaches, rats, and snakes— appear on the screen.
The world constructed by Sun Xun in this film is unsettling, the stuff of nightmares. Long after watching the film, one finally realizes that the anxiety he feels is the result of the extreme ordinariness of the images. Just as before an earthquake hits, one experiences an apprehension that everything is wrong. And then, the question: Is something going to happen? Sun’s film inspires an anxiety that is deeply personal, unutterable but totally and psychologically real. While there are similarities with his earlier animation 21 Grams, such as the reappearance of the magician, the visual language here is closer to suppression than catharsis.
The title includes the word “revolution,” but what kind of revolution does Sun Xun advocate? Unlike the rallying crowds that populate news images of revolutionary movements, there are no masses in this film. The revolution that Sun describes is that of a solitary person and a scene of ruin. The person in the film picks out an insect from amongst his teeth, and then eats the insect again. Life alternates between flesh and skeleton, the eternal loudspeaker and plaza, the buzzing flies and mosquitoes, snakes and mice in the process of mutual ingestion— revolution is here also the endless cycle of matter moving through the cycle of life, evidenced by the relationship between the individual and natural organisms. Sun seems to say that despite the social significance of a revolution, its reality is inseparable from the life cycle of chirping insects. Nature moves forward, regardless of how many fists are raised in the air, or how many times.
The narrative structure in Sun Xun’s film is composed by interweaving fragments of both latent and manifested meanings; it is both a revolution and a metaphor for our revolutionary desires. This narrative points less to the different realities contained between country borders— even if, considering Sun’s nationality, the woodcut images that he uses inextricably evoke Lu Xun and those ever-changing, revolutionary days— than to a certain type of behavior, or the individual itself. This abstract revolution occurs on the level of the individual and his existence.
And so ultimately, the images in this film carry us towards that profound understanding granted to us by writers like Kafka and Solzhenitsyn with their descriptions of human survival. Our literary memory and the reality of existence merge together to create a cultural longing that moves us as much as this film does. Liu Xi (Translated by JiaJing Liu)