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Dead Souls(死靈魂)

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

Switzerland, France


8h 15m

Director Wang Bing


Genre Documentary

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In Gansu Province, northwest China, lie the remains of countless prisoners abandoned in the Gobi Desert sixty years ago. Designated as ultra-rightists in the Communist Party’s Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957, they starved to death in the reeducation camps. The film invites us to meet the survivors of the camps to find out firsthand who these people were, the hardships they were forced to endure, and what became their destiny.


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The A.V. Club by A.A. Dowd

The storytelling ends up saying nearly as much as the stories themselves: Not simply capturing and filing memories, the film becomes a portrait of how these survivors have processed their trauma, how they’ve framed the horror of their experiences, and how they’ve coped with survivors’ guilt.

The New York Times by Bilge Ebiri

Despite its intense running time and disturbing subject matter, Dead Souls does not seek a complete accounting. In fact, it’s partly about the inability to convey the full horror of these experiences.

The Film Stage by Ethan Vestby

This writer has to admit to struggling with the film when it came to the simple area of enjoyment, a push-pull between admiring its rigorous form and being slightly turned off by its lack of notes hit throughout.

Variety by Owen Gleiberman

Wang Bing’s Dead Souls is a powerfully sobering and clear-eyed investigation that justifies its length through the gravity and presence of its testimony.

Slant Magazine by Sam C. Mac

The anguish expressed and experiences described by the survivors certainly can overlap with each other, and even become repetitive, but it’s ultimately this unification of perspective that gives Dead Souls its authority—and that allows it to become an incisive reappropriation of collectivist solidarity.

Screen International by Sarah Ward

This essential documentary is necessarily, unflinchingly grim; the cinematic equivalent of walking in the survivors’ shoes, and a complex, challenging but crucial viewing experience that burrows its immense sorrows deep into the audience’s bones.
100 by Simon Abrams

A massive, imposing work of non-fiction filmmaking that demands attention despite also being the sort of artwork that doesn't really need any of our attention to be great. Like a monolith, this thing just is. It also just happens to be great, sometimes despite and sometimes because of its mega-sized breadth and scope.