Lu and Feng are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home only to find ... Read allLu and Feng are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife no longer recognizes him.Lu and Feng are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife no longer recognizes him.
It recounts the story of a small Chinese family of Professor Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming), his wife Feng Wan Yu (Gong Li) and their daughter - Dandan (Hang Huiwen). Early in the movie, at the height of cultural revolution, we find this family is thrown into disarray when Professor Lu is forcibly separated from his wife and infant daughter on being accused of anti-national activities. He is one among the millions who are incarcerated and relegated to a labour camp for a long sentence. Several years pass by as we see that, under the watchful glare of the state which is wary of Lu's status of an anti-national, Feng is struggling to make ends meet as a teacher even as Dandan, a student at the ballet academy, is struggling in her own way to land a part of lead in a prestigious stage show. When Lu makes a desperate attempt to flee his captors and reunite with his family, Feng is having a difficult dilemma between rejoicing his escape, being wary of Dandan who barely remembers him and sees him merely as the source of their miserable status and the state which puts them under a microscope to recapture him if he contacts them. Ultimately, when he does return home, he is quickly pounced upon by the state authorities who were tipped off by Dandan on the hope that such loyalty would help her secure that coveted part in the show. Fate plays a cruel trick as soon after the arrest, Dandan is spurned for that role as she is still seen as the daughter of an outlaw and her mother shuts her out for what she sees an unforgivable betrayal. Some years later, when Lu is released after the Cultural Revolution, he returns to find his family shattered as his wife is suffering from an amnesia and his daughter is forced to eke out a living as a textile worker. Feng is unable to recognise Lu as her husband and she continues to wait for him to return from incarceration. The rest of the movie narrates the attempts of Yu to rebuild his family and reconnect to his wife.
Yimou's narrative is subtle, yet profound in observations. It is indeed a travesty when you require an official letter to recognise somebody who is your own. And, at times, even that is not proof enough. Feng's loss of memory is perhaps, her pathetic, final attempt to shut out a State that seeks to seep down and intrude into every element of her existence to enforce a compliance to its prescribed code of conduct.
Through the prism of this family, the director showcases how an authoritarian state can appropriate one's life so ruthlessly that the citizens remain helpless and mute spectator as their life and family get trampled over by the giant wheels of a State machinery which pulls its entire citizenry in a particular direction to a predetermined destination. The instruments of the state intrude into every sphere of their life to suffocate them off any meaningful independence in exercise of their choices and where the individuals and their every aspiration is subordinated to the professed Party line and jingoistic nationalism.
The movie is anchored by stellar performances from the three leads - a spellbinding Gong Li and equally spectacular performances by Chen & Zhang who portray the multiple nuances of their roles effectively. Yimou's movie is ultimately a tale of triumph of the human spirit and the endless love it is capable of as well as the phenomenal power of such love to emancipate, enliven, energize and create beauty from bleakest of circumstances.
The poignant, multi-layered movie replete with metaphors which premiered in Cannes in 2014 has won several accolades at several film festivals across the world.
- Oct 27, 2019