Shengwei Zhou // 2018 // China // Animation, Body horror, Drama, Experimental // 95 min // Parallax Films
Cast: Fuyang Lv, Sai Liu, Hoiian Chio, Ruida Han, Jiabao Yue, Liang Yu, Haochen Han
Language: No dialogue, Visual narration // Subtitles: None // Siren Competition
When her newborn daughter is about to be forced to undergo a sex change mutilation so that he may join the workforce, a high-heeled ‘mother shoe’ – She – kills the male warden in her birth prison. She slips on his leather hide in hopes of earning a living in the androcentric world above – an inhospitable environment where male lethargy is rewarded and a mixture of exploitation and torture awaits her, unless She finds a way to rewrite the rules from within the heart of the dystopian shoe-verse.
Nearly six years in the making and brought to life by over 55.000 photos of everyday objects, Shengwei Zhou’s S He is a monumental stop-motion achievement in terms of dedication and artistic craft alone (80% of its characters and properties are made out of recycled materials). S He is a thought-provoking treatise that runs the gamut of topics from female infanticide, rape and capitalism’s social chokehold to forced prostition and men trying to seize control of or put restrictions on female reproductive rights.
At 28, Shengwei has created a confrontational fantasy that springs from a male-dominated reality and stands as a shocking slice of body horror the likes of which the silver screen has rarely seen before. Too compassionate to be looped in with torture porn and going far beyond most rape-revenge stories, S He lambasts patriarchal power, refuses to peddle a hollowed-out vision of female empowerment and becomes instead an unspoken, anticapitalist plea for gender equality.
S He stacks metaphors as high as the glass ceiling it forcefully shatters and sears itself into your brain as an experimental gem of visual storytelling that articulates its vision on its own abstract terms. Aided by an evocative sound design of whispers, grunts, hums and an otherworldly beautiful score (courtesy of Sihan Yuan) yet without ever uttering a word of conventional dialogue (!), it’s a flat-out showstopper that will transfix adventurous cinephiles.
Text: Tom Kiesecoms