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Emigre in one’ own hometown

Popularity 1Viewed 1803 times 2016-1-19 19:47 |Personal category:film review|System category:Others


    If I have to choose the “best film I saw in 2015”, “Mountains May Depart” would be hard to beat. And if you, as a foreigner, want to know more about the vicissitude of Chinese rural life in last decades, it is the film that you don’t want to miss.
    “Mountains” unfolds in the director, Jia Zhangke’s own hometown of Fenyang (in China’s northern Shanxi province), beginning in 1999, continuing in 2014, and ending in 2025. It starts by describing a love triangle in rural Fenyang between the singer and dance instructor Tao, wealthy entrepreneur Zhang and lower-class miner Liang. The three young people are friends since school-days, but when love comes, Tao must make choice between Zhang and Liang. Finally, Tao agrees marry Zhang and wounded Liang leaves the hometown.
     In the second segment in 2014, Liang has a wife and a baby, as well as a respiratory problem earned by years of inhaling coal dust in mines. In need of money to pay for medical treatment, he returns to Fenyang and reaches Tao. Liang discoveries that Tao is divorced and running a gas station, while Zhang, serves as a symbol of Chinese new rich in 21-century, living a luxury life in Shanghai. When I saw Tao visits the weak Liang in his humble house and gives him the money for treatment. I saw a clear boundary between the friends in youth. The two are now exactly belonging to two different classes. The picture impressed me deeply is that a bullet train streaks across the station, Liang and his wife look at the train going far away, somber face while frowning. It is the most heartbreaking part in this film, I think. It seems that these humble people are abandoned by the speeding train of age. Years of struggling cannot guarantee them a better life, and that is why I call them “emigre in one’ own hometown”. Some of these rural residents are unavoidably involved in the transformation of China and they are unable to against their own fate and are reduced to the bottom of poverty. In face of the constantly changing landscape of hometown, can they find a real happiness?
    In the third part of the story in 2025, Tao’s son Dollar, after years of life living in Australia with his father, has forgotten his mother and Mandarin language entirely. He just remembers his mother’s name ‘Tao’ (means waves in Chinese). Dollar and his father Zhang have a communication problem that escalates conflicts between them. Dollar lacks mother care and is removed from his roots, he is experiencing existential angst. I think that is why he with Oedipus complex latter has a May to December romance with his Chinese teacher (herself an emigre from Hong Kong via Toronto). In this segment, the film maker is trying to ask question about how these emigres who forgot who they are can find their connections with their roots.
On one hand, the director is trying to seek causes that lead people lost themselves during the social vicissitude. On the other, this film also expresses a restraint emotion and pessimistic idea that no one can accompany the other for a lifetime, including friends, husband, wife, and son. The person who was important for you just appears for a short time in your long journey, which inspires a melancholy effect. When watching this film, you can feel humanism. I think a good film will not tell you to do this or that cliché; they just put a good story there for you to think.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report voice_cd 2016-1-21 10:41
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