A naked old man wanders around an empty theater hallway and comes down to the stage. The camera closes up and pans around the old man's naked body. He kneels, moves like a dancer, and starts to sing and tell a story. This old man recalls his youth days in 1949 when the Communist Party took over China. He explains how he once lived a successful life as a musician and how his life and art were torn apart as he was forced to conform to the regime. This old man is Wang Xilin, a Chinese classical music composer and conductor, living in Germany as a defector. This 86-year-old man suffered from censorship, violence, intimidation, and torture throughout his life as an anti-regime artist. The camera closely observes his mysterious choreography and his body, which bears traces of dictatorship and oppression. Man in Black is totally different from the previous works of Wang Bing. The film was made jointly with a film director, Caroline Champetier, who filmed the movies by Jean-Luc Godard, Philippe Garrel, and Leos Carax Man in Black was filmed stylishly at an old theater in Paris for one day. The experiment of Wang Bing takes a step further than ordinary documentaries to combine the music, testimony, and performance of unbearable pain to paint a portrait of destruction.
The film is a portrait of 86 years old Wang Xilin, one of China's most important modern classical composers now based in Germany. During the troubled time of the 60??s, he was the target of severe persecution, enduring beatings, imprisonment and torture. The film exhibits the body and soul of a man scarred by a life of suffering, who is yet still capable of deep and sincere compassion. With excerpts from his Symphonies, he revisits some of the horrifying events that still live on in his memory.