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A less than titillating premiere

By Wei Xi (Global Times)

09:10, September 18, 2012

Promotional poster for White Deer Plain (Photo from CFP)

The highly-anticipated movie, White Deer Plain, premiered in Chinese mainland theaters this Saturday, following a two-day delay of its original theater release date, September 13, and coming months after its premiere at Berlin International Film Festival (BIFF) in February.

Directed by Wang Quan'an, White Deer Plain is an adaptation of Chen Zhongshi's full-length novel of the name title.

Many fans of the original novel found the film disappointing. Compared to Chen Zhongshi's novel, which has around 400,000 words, the two-and-a-half hour film seemed to rush through the saga spanning half a century, missing crucial storylines and characters.

Notable differences

The film follows generations of the Bai and Lu families living on the White Deer Plain in central Shaanxi, from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to the founding of People's Republic of China. The stories of the central characters parallel the changes of the country.

The film begins at the halfway point of the novel and ends before the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

Adaptations are often different from the original, and the limited time length prevents Wang from telling the story in detail.

The book is praised for its coverage of the characters and the interweaving themes of love, ethics and time. The film is criticized for focusing too much on Tian Xiao'e and the romance between Tian and Heiwa.

Tian, the concubine of a rich farmer, runs off with Heiwa, a migrant worker who harvests wheat, after the two have an affair. Wang Quan'an disregards other stories to focus on this. Development of the Bai and Lu families seem motivated by Tian's story.

One major disappointment to fans of the book is that several major characters in the original novel, including Zhu Xianshen, Bai Ling and Lu Zhaohai are absent in the movie.

Shi Jianfeng, a columnist, posted on his Sina Weibo that White Deer Plain without Zhu is not real, as Zhu is one of a central characters in Chen Zhongshi's book. Chen grew up admiring the feats of Zhu.

"It's a pity that many central figures aren't included in the movie," Chen told Chinese Business View last Friday.

"Many important events happened in China during [the first half of 20th century], a key backdrop. But these important time periods are presented only with the dates on the screen," movie critic Wang Siwei said, adding that the film expects audiences to have a knowledge of modern Chinese history.

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