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The World

Is Not Enough…

Beijing's 'World Park' is an astonishing Epcot-esque theme park on steroids. It contains miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, and other major landmarks from around the world. Zhang Ke Jia's The World juxtaposes the lives, dreams, and conflicts of several young adults who work and inhabit this bizarre artificial world.

In World Park, one can travel around the globe in less than a day. Virtually every country is readily accessible by the park's monorail. Yet, none of the young adults in the film can escape from the sometimes bleak and painful reality of their existence.

Zhang is clearly attempting to make a statement about the impact of globalization on the individual and in particular, human interactions. Conversations between the characters in The World are bland, lifeless, and typically meaningless. There is a general sense of disconnectedness that pervades the film. The liveliest interactions are cell phone text messages that Zhang cleverly turns into animated sequences.

Zhang's concept for The World is interesting, but the distance and disconnectedness between all of the characters makes it difficult to really care about any of these characters. There were moments when it seemed I had accidentally stepped into World Of The Living Deadsans gore.

We learn little about any of the characters who inhabit this world. But, it seems this is Zhang's point. In a world of 'global culture', individuals and any local culture become obsolete. Equally challenging is the lack of a real narrative thread. Zhang's characters seem to wander around aimlessly or stare out of monorail windows longingly looking for a career, love, or something they can't quite define.

The events that do transpire in The World seem more like a random assemblage on non-sequitors and hence, bear a striking resemblance to real life. If this is Zhang's intention, he does a great job. But, it makes for a slow and languid film that is already pretty long to begin with at 139 minutes.

Despite the aforementioned challenges, Zhang raises some interesting and provocative questions in The World. While globalization certainly makes the world smaller and perhaps creates a superficial sense of connectedness with others, personal connections seem woefully lacking in this new world. In many ways, the advent of technology has created more distance than proximity.

NOTE-The World is playing exclusively at the Balboa Theater starting 9/16.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars