An audacious feminine perspective of a classic story
In China in the 1930s, a convict escapes after 8 years of prison and returns to his home town where he finds out the woman he had a youthful romance with is married to the son of the man responsible for the death of his family and for his misfortune. Their love is intact but he is obsessed with revenge.
The story is rather common, full of the clichés HK/Chinese audience used to praise (the angry and powerful mother-in-law, the family courtyard in camera, the impossible love...), but it is shot and told in a very modern way for its time. The director was obviously eager to give her woman sensitivity to the story and this brings a fresh angle to the genre : most of the plot is seen from the main female character standpoint, alternating lyricism, passion and lucidity. The photography is beautiful and the movie can still be easily watched with nowadays standards. Few scenes were clearly inspired by latest Western and Japanese cinema (noticeably Dersu Uzala from Kurosawa for the outdoor shots). It is somehow running too slow most of the time but the last 20 minutes, when the couple tries to run away from the police into the woods, fighting against natural elements and madness, are extremely powerful.
Despite a nomination to Venice Film Festival, A Savage Land has remained fairly unknown but this is truly a hidden gem for the fans of Chinese Cinema, made just before the rise of the Fifth Generation (Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou,...).
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