During the Cultural Revolution, an unschooled young man is laboring in the countryside when he is suddenly assigned to teach in a near-by village school. Gradually, he finds the confidence to encourage the barely literate kids to write about their own lives and feelings. At the same time, through a series of dream-like meetings with a young cowherd, he begins to sense the possibilities of a life beyond the parameters of traditional education.Written by
Haizi Wang focuses on a group of "sent down youth": teenagers exiled to the countryside in the far SW province of Yunnan during the cultural revolution. The protagonist accepts a job as a teacher in an impoverished school and begins teaching his rural pupils in the traditional manner--the instructor transcribes the text of the lesson on the chalkboard, the students recite the lesson aloud, and copy the text in their notebooks. His most ambitious student takes on the task of transcribing the entire dictionary.
The subject of this film is the propagation of Chinese cultural values through traditional style of education. This theme reflects a view prevalent among Chen Kaige's generation who experienced the CR first hand: even though the Cultural Revolution set out to do away with the trappings of China's "feudal" cultural heritage, the language and rhetoric of the participants was infused with deep rooted, "traditional feudal values." Thus the CR only succeeded in replicating the same values it sought to eradicate.
The cinematography and narrative structure of the Haizi Wang underscore the director's concern with breaking from blind imitation of conventional filmmaking.
**Contrast with other films about sent down youth: Sacrificed Youth and Xie Jin's The Herdsman.
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