[Video Essay] Subdivided City

Video link: https://youtu.be/esBqM0uby-I

Site: Overhead bridge

Director: Zimeng Fan

One side of the bridge stands for the clean, peaceful, and beautiful side of the city, and the other side stands for demolition, crisis, and ugly side of the city. The bridge has such a short distance yet displays the two faces of the city and connects them together. The contrast between the two sides represent is the view of people. Depending on how we look at the bridge, we get different views.

Just like people, depending on how we treat and look at things that is happening around us, the outcomes will be different. Take the bridge as an example, some may say the bridge is awful, dirty, and ugly, while the others will say the bridge is very scenic, romantic, and lively. They may seem to talk about two completely different bridges, while the truth is, it is the same bridge they are talking about. No one is right or wrong, some people tend to only look at the ugly side while others tend to admire its beautiful side. My message from this video is trying to tell people that try to be more an optimistic person, try to look at the positive side of things and you will find life can be way more interesting and livelier.



The most difficult part of making this video is finding the site, as I live in a rather small city, there are very few overhead bridges, and most of them are not open to the public. Eventually, I found this bridge near The University of Kaifeng. Also doing research on overhead bridges in films is quite painful, there is very little information online related to this site in movies, and with the existing resources, it does not help with my filming as bridges are mostly used in war films. Hence, all the ideas and ways of filming the bridge are all done by myself  As I saw this bridge, a movie scene flashed in my head, I cannot remember what the movie is called, but the final scene is filmed on a bridge. It is a war film, the main character is trying to escape the enemy’s territory and make it back to his own country, the last scene is the main character slowly walking across the bridge, the distance is short, but the meaning is significant. One side of the bridge is hell to him, while the other side is like heaven to him. The use of the bridge is very magnificent in the scene, as the bridge is used as a medium to travel from hell to heaven, and the fact that such a short bridge has represented two very different views is fascinating.



Throughout cinema history, bridges have been connected with danger, death, or evil. The thought of walking or driving over empty space fills us with dread and uneasiness. There must have been some hesitation in bypassing the gods and closing a natural breach over a river or valley a long time ago. A bridge is “unnatural” and maybe detestable in the eyes of the gods unless it is made of fallen trees or a perfect series of stepping stones in a creek. However, there is a parallel practice of “crossing a bridge” to bring positive or hopeful change into one’s life. Several films have taken advantage of this more hopeful vision of bridges as gateways to a new way of being. Some movies have examined the concept of bridges connecting the present to previous times and/or places as a time-travel machine, maybe because bridges are sometimes the locus of death, the final transition. Because bridges are geographically located between “here” and “there,” the choice of such a site makes logical sense for a physically impossible dream.

Bridges do not always offer access. Bridges can become ideological lines in the sand during cold wars, just as they might provide a cultural barrier that certain people are afraid to cross. Saturday Night Fever (US, 1977) is a prime example of a film in which a bridge appears to be more of a cultural barrier than a gateway to new experiences. Tony and his buddies are afraid of Manhattan and choose to stay in their familiar Brooklyn neighbourhood and cultural milieu of Bay Ridge. The Brooklyn Bridge might as well not exist for them. It takes them nowhere they want to go.





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2 thoughts on “[Video Essay] Subdivided City

  1. YifanZhu  says:

    Great work!! I really like your way of shooting this film and your interpretation and interpretation of the image of the “bridge”. everyone lives in the same society and walks the same bridge every day, but there are such huge differences on both sides of the bridge. The movie you mentioned in your text should be “So weit die Füße tragen” directed by Hardy Martins, which is one of my favorite movies. The long shot at the end of the film is the image of the protagonist crossing the bridge. One side of the bridge is the Soviet Union, and the other side is Iran, where the protagonist can escape. It is just like you said, the two sides of the bridge are like hell and heaven.

  2. Lu Zhang says:

    I appreciate your creativity and site selection, it is a great way to highlight the point of view that “different perspectives, different scenes”. And I’m glad that you analyze the bridge with the inspiration of Saturday Night, then further associate it with social context and cultural ideology. But in contrast, your writing is better than the film. The film’s first half is a bit obscure. Audiences can not engage in your work quickly. I would recommend you improve your shooting skills, editing, color grading, etc. Referencing films with shots of bridges would be an effective approach. Also, please further expand your reference.


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