Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
This is a beautiful, violent, strange and confusing film from the great Chinese director Zhangke Jia. It's made up of four independent stories that all deal with violence that is used to resolve issues which the director sees as an increasing problem in China. The first part deals with a man who is driven to violence out of his frustrated with corruption and the abuse of power in his village where rich men steal from everbody else and respond to criticism with violence.
The second part involves Xiao Yu, a young woman who is trapped in a relationship with a married man who refuses to divorce his wife and marry her. We see her walking to her job as a receptionist at a sauna/massage parlor past a van with a man calling out to "See the holy snakes, see the beauty." Later the same night, Xiao Yu's boyfriend's angry wife confronts her and yells and beats Xiao Yu then two men continue beating her when she runs outside until she finally gets away and runs inside the snake van to hide. We see a large glass area with several snakes in it on the floor around a woman's feet. Then the camera raises up and we see that the woman is sitting on a chair inside a smaller glass box surrounded by the snakes. I have no idea what is going on here, but she's obviously the "beauty," and the snakes are the "holy snakes" but I don't know if it's some kind of religious happening or what it is. Next we see Xiao Yu resting with other employees in the massage parlor in front of a large video screen that is playing a short scene from Green Snake
a movie version of the Madame White Snake myth about two snake women who become mortals and get romantically involved with human men. The movie is not there by chance. Maybe we are supposed to compare her to one of the mythical snake women who get involved with men they shouldn't be involved with. And later she becomes a violent warrior in a similar way that the snake women battle their enemies. Then we see Xiao Yu walking on a rural road hitch-hiking to see her mother when she stops to watch a snake cross the road.
The snakes in the tank I can't identify. The snake crossing the road is computer-generated.