Cecil Selwyn’s review published on Letterboxd:
Some things do change, and other things are constant
A cultural history rendered in pristine digital; The Old and The New.
I was initially put off by the stagnant nature of Zhangke's interview format, but this time paid careful attention to each mise en scène, noting the intricately detailed framing of every deceptively standard shot. And to my pleasant surprise, everything fell into place.
Swimming Out is composed almost entirely in brutally shallow focus, suggesting a constant present to every frame, that history and future exist simultaneously. It's perhaps Zhangke's most radically structured work, touching on everything from works of art to personal affairs to seismic cultural shirts with no favoritism toward any particular idea or perspective.
Through this unorthodox approach, Zhangke illustrates the interdependence of every aspect of a culture on both a macro and micro scale. Personal freedom, even individual artistic expression, is as dependent on the individuals' material circumstance as a nation's way of life is dependent on the artists' ability to imagine a better world.
Everything is everything, and every story is worth our attention.