Auteur Wang Xiaoshuai returns to the Festival with a unique pandemic story of individuals trapped in a claustrophobic environment, facing not only the challenges imposed by the lockdown, curfew, and quarantine, but also the cruel tests of fate and human nature.
Contemporary World Cinema
The Hotel holds a special place within the award-winning filmography of Chinese auteur Wang Xiaoshuai. Shot in 14 days, with very limited means and a generous amount of creativity, the film is entirely set in the Thai hotel where the director and a group of friends — including renowned filmmaker Zhang Yuan, screenwriter Ning Dai, and their daughter Ning Yuanyuan — happened to spend Chinese New Year in 2020. A rare work among the latest Chinese productions, the film reflects on the pandemic and its devastating effects on the minds of the younger generations, once projected into a bright future and now confined within the boundaries of a never-before-experienced uncertainty.
Stranded in a small, rather boring city in a foreign country due to COVID-19, a young Beijing woman — played by Yuanyuan, a child of art and an emerging filmmaker herself — meets a middle-aged man from Wuhan by the hotel swimming pool. She is about to turn 20 and her story connects with that of other hotel guests, expanding into a complex world of hard-to-control magnified emotions.
Simple by design, the film captures, with surgical precision, a mood of entrapment, confusion, apathy, growing frustration, wandering sentiments, and rampant sexual desires. Carefully chosen views of the hotel’s architectural details — balustrades, empty rooms, and stairways — are elegantly framed in the distant hues of black-and-white photography to enhance the atmosphere of estrangement in a once-lively, now semi-deserted place.
Yuanyuan’s ebullient vitality shines in a performance that is at once pensive and vivacious, bringing to the screen a star of tomorrow.
Content advisory: sexual innuendo