This four-part fiction film is as much poetry as it is narrative. First-time filmmaker Chai Chunya’s work evokes four characters – a poet, a searcher, a puppet master, and a shaman. Each of them has intense, deeply-rooted spiritual links to the land (the film was shot in and around the Gansu province) mediated by the four elemental symbols: earth, water, fire, and wind.
On one level, FOUR WAYS TO DIE IN MY HOMETOWN portrays the decay of the Chinese countryside in a time of strong urbanization, but the film’s logic is associative and dreamlike. Chai builds up a series of striking tableaux, hypnotically suggestive and pictorially spectacular. Two young women lose a camel, then a father. A retired shadow puppeteer meets a gun-toting tree thief. Storytellers and shamans evoke a lost spiritual world that Chai films back to life in spectacular and haunting visual motifs.