What follows is, rather unusually for this site, not a film review of a movie shown in cinemas, but a video on the inter-tubes. I don’t plan to make a habit of this, but this one is extraordinary enough on various levels to warrant the same kind of attention given to traditional movies.
You can find out more about the young man who made the video via his website (currently overloaded) if his story interests you, so I will only recap it very briefly here: Chris Rehage walked almost the entire width of China, from Beijing to Ürümqi over the course of a year. Rather than just “take pictures and/or video” as most of us would have done, he was inspired by the “picture per day” videos that have become a fashion on the net, but took it a definite notch up from there.
This is a brilliant fusion of photo-journal diary, time-lapse travelogue and music video, beautifully edited to a fabulously incongruous soundtrack. I think it really “raises the bar” on self-made travel videos and rises to the level of a genuine work of filmic art.
The first time you watch it, you will likely (and should) focus on Rehage’s own metamorphosis over a year’s time; as he says, “one year walk/beard growth time lapse.” But there’s a lot more going on there; you’re watching a man step into the unknown, and it doesn’t always go to plan. It’s part of the fascination of these sorts of self-portrait videos, looking directly into their eyes.
The second time you watch it, try to look past Rehage most of the time and notice his various surroundings; where he lingers, what goes by fleetingly, all the detail captured in the background. You may be surprised what (mostly) rural China has in store for you …
I also suggest a third, more frame-by-frame (or at least slowed-motion) view so you can catch captions and combined details of each photo (and often, photo-sequence) composition.
One of the best things about projects like this is that modern photography is very “high-def” and so while we are constrained by annoyances like “economical file size” and “bandwidth” in determining how “big” a picture we can see, the “original” in Rehage’s possession is entirely suitable for future, larger presentations. I look forward to seeing a real “HD” version of this again soon.