In Zhao Liang’s affecting documentary Behemoth, the coal-mining industry in China is brought into startling view as gaping landscapes become filled with sky-high structures. With impeccable compositions and sensitive portrayals of the workers involved, Liang’s camera reflects the human and global cost of a country’s desire to build its urban centres.
Through surreal depictions of the rumbling dirt paths and endless underground abysses, Behemoth imbues each frame with silent and meditative qualities, contemplating the hardship that goes hand in hand with making a concrete and iron ‘paradise’ of high-rises. This is a paradise without the peace or humanity, leaving in its wake the death of its workers and the dismantling of their families. However, Liang doesn’t solely search for the human element, finding chasms within the earth to explore the ancillary effects on our environment.
Striking and current, Behemoth finds itself at the apex of ideology and aesthetic, putting forth ideas and arguments for our past, present and future, while exuding contradictory beauty in every frame.