Zhang Yimou presents "pure love" in Cultural Revolution in new film

08:42, September 02, 2010      

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Resisting his long-time penchant for dazzling, picture-perfect visual effects and dropping the political edge in his early movies, top Chinese film director Zhang Yimou has recreated a pure love story on the silver screen in a simple and direct way.

The movie, "Under the Hawthorn Tree", which opens on the Chinese mainland on Sept. 16, tells of a romance set during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.

The movie's storyline is based on Ai Mi's novel, "Hawthorn Tree Forever", which was published on the Internet in 2007.

The romance is between a young woman, Jingqiu, whose life has been made difficult since her father was labeled a rightist, and a young man, Laosan, who is a handsome and promising son of a high-ranking military officer.

They fall in love while Jingqiu is undergoing reeducation in a mountain village. Though a relationship from contrasting family backgrounds might cause trouble, they date in secret during the next few years until Jingqiu's mother finds out about their clandestine relationship.

Her mother forces Laosan to vow not to see Jingqiu again until her family background improves and she turns 25, for her mother insists that their inappropriate relationship may get her laid off from her hard-earned teaching position, since a woman should not fall in love until the age of25.

Zhang is said to have made up his mind to adapt the novel into a movie after being "deeply touched" by the purity of the story.

"I want to recover the original purity and simplicity of the 1970s' and the people at that time, with a slow but compelling narration. I want it to convey a long-lost purity," said Zhang.

To recreate the purity in the novel, Zhang uses simple and plain shooting methods, giving up his favorite use of bright colors such as red and yellow. Everything in the movie is presented in its original colors, with no deliberate attempts to make it colorful or visually attractive.

During a screening for reporters from more than 100 Chinese news organizations Wednesday, a few male viewers dozed off from time to time, apparently struggling to stay focused on the slow-developing story.

The story, however, struck a chord with quite a few female viewers. One of them said, when the screening was over, that she couldn't help herself from weeping a lot.

What moves these women might be the two protagonists' defiance against the risks that their relationship might incur and their perfect embodiment of "till death do us apart" in a time full of persecutions.

Ding Yaping, director of the film and TV school of the China Art Academy, considers the film as one of a genre that is widely seen in Japanese or Korean movies, but has not been made by Chinese directors for over a decade.

"Zhang's movie is the kind of devoted romance that will be engraved on one's bones," he said at another preview screening for critics Tuesday.

Another film critic, Zhang Wei, who watched the movie with Ding, said the movie would have implications for China, where instant gratification and consumerism have taken hold.

"The pure conception of love and romance in a movie set in the 1970s' would enlighten those young Chinese born between 1980 and 2000 on their outlooks on relationships and romance," he said.

Source: Xinhua


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