Full-subconscious disclosure: Huang Weikai’s epic (58-minute!) documentary triggered—in this viewer—a bona fide nightmare. Said nightmare concerned an unexplained sequence toward the end of the film, in which a seemingly indestructible citizen is repeatedly beaten by a group of men, some of whom appear to be police officers or security guards. Random bystanders join in; I think you get the picture.
In interviews, Huang has speculated that the concept of “disorder” might vary according to ethnicity. Is there a form of chaos that is distinctly Chinese? Apparently yes, and his film both documents and embodies it. Grainy black-and-white footage, captured by amateur on-the-scene videographers, has been spliced together to create a nonstop portrait of a metropolis gone berserk—a city symphony from hell.
Disorder begins with an image of a geyser unleashed from a broken hydrant. Cut to a man, lying in the street, the victim of a traffic accident. Are the actions related? No clue. People gathering to help the injured party are clearly unnerved by the presence of the camera—one of the film’s recurring panoptic motifs. As they try to aid the fallen man, they accuse him of “faking it” and offer him hush money. A scene of a panicky mob in a supermarket follows shortly; and then, unexpectedly, a close-up of udon noodles. Chopsticks reveal a dead cockroach, and the utensils are then used to resubmerge the bug. That’s one of the many moments of perverse levity—but the film’s general mayhem proceeds inexorably.
Micro-distributor dGenerate Films, run by film producer Karin Chien and specializing in “mainland” cinema, has made Huang’s film available for educational and other non-theatrical purposes. But it truly deserves to be seen—and to disturb—a much wider audience.