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New Left Review 31, January-February 2005


West of the Tracks, Wang Bing’s stupendous documentary on the collapse of heavy industry and the fate of workers in China’s North-East, viewed in comparative perspective by a film-critic compatriot. Memories of the battlegrounds of Manchuria, and echoes of Lukács, Benjamin and Hobsbawm, amid the debris of an epoch and its human fall-out.

LU XINYU

RUINS OF THE FUTURE

Class and History in Wang Bing’s Tiexi District

In the long opening shot of West of the Tracks, the camera stares from the cabin of a small goods train moving slowly through snow-muffled, abandoned factories. A few ghostly figures flit under a gloomy sky. The only sound in a silent landscape is the creak of its wheels. These three minutes are like a rite of passage into history. We are entering another world, one that has already been destroyed: a ruin of industrial civilization.

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Xinyu Lu, ‘Ruins of the Future’, NLR 31: £3
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