Behemoth (Beixi moshuo). 2015. China/France. Directed by Zhao Liang. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 91 min.
Political documentarian Zhao Liang draws inspiration from The Divine Comedy for this simultaneously intoxicating and terrifying glimpse at the ravages wrought upon Inner Mongolia by its coal and iron industries. A poetic voiceover speaks of the insatiability of desire on top of stunning images of landscapes (and their decimation), machines (and their spectacular functions), and people (and the toll of their labor). Interspersed are sublime tableaux of a prone nude body—asleep? just born? dead?—posed against a refracted horizon. A wholly absorbing guided tour of exploding hillsides, dank mine shafts, cacophonous factories, and vacant cities, Behemoth builds upon Zhao’s previous exposés (2009’s Petition, 2007’s Crime and Punishment) by combining his muckraking streak with a painterly vision of a social and ecological nightmare otherwise unfolding out of sight, out of mind. Winner of the environmental Green Drop Award at the Venice Film Festival