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"Under the Hawthorn Tree" tells the story of Jing, a naive city schoolgirl to be transferred to a remote village for "re-education" during the Cultural Revolution. In China's heavens reigns one solitary God, Mao. Jing's father has been jailed for "rightist" and her mother struggles to feed her three children. Jing knows that both their future and the welfare of her family depend, in view of the authorities, on their good behavior. A small error would be enough to ruin their lives. But Jing's prudent and peaceful existence is disrupted when she condescends to the attentions of Sun, the charming son of an elite military member. Due to the social gap separating them, a romance between them is unthinkable; even more so, dangerous. But the attraction is mutual, powerful and undeniable. Jing tries to resist, but Sun chases her politely, even after she is back to her native city. Love between the two blossoms. It is a pure, passionate and secret love. No one should know, still less her ... Written by
Shan zha shu zhi lian/Under The Hawthorn Tree (2010) is a very romantic film. It is a tear-jerker. It is also beautifully made and can be added to the extensive list of classic movies directed by Yimou Zhang.
If you are familiar with the languid style of some Asian cinema, then this film is spectacularly rewarding and intensely moving.
This film represents a young generation brought up in an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, cultivated by Mao Zedong and his insidious rule. These characters have been moulded into automatons with their natural impulses cruelly suppressed.
Zhou Dongyu is brilliant as the young and inexperienced Jingqiu and Dou Xiao is utterly charming as the male love interest.
It seems that many in the West have misunderstood this film. One critic calls this film "emotionally emaciated". How wrong can someone be?
Maybe the undeservedly poor rating on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes is because there are no psychotic ballerinas with self-mutilation fetishes or protracted gun fights within CGI dreams?
One thing is for sure, Under The Hawthorn Tree is a brilliant piece of filmmaking.
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