There is a sensibility to Asian cinema that you can not encounter in any other films. A little while ago I watched The Road Home (1999), directed by Yimou Zhang. And in all my frenzy of seeing as many 2016 films as possible now that we are in the middle of the awards season (it’s the only time of year I watch so many American films – an activity my film lover of a husband categorically refuses to take part in (but that’s okay, I prefer going to the movies alone anyway) – and, wow, was I disappointed by so many this time around!), this beautiful Chinese film was like a breath of fresh air and a call to the roots of film-making. Its simplicity, its colours, the emotions it transmits, the delicate performance of Ziyi Zhang (she is better known for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Grandmaster, and Memoirs of A Geisha, but The Road Home is her most wonderful and subtle piece of acting) – they all work together to tell one of the best love stories in the history of cinema.
The film begins in a black and white, dark world, and when one of the characters, played by Honglei Sun, begins to tell the story of his parents’ love story, we are taken into a world of colour, a world of magic. What we get to watch is, in fact, the courtship between Zhao, a teenage girl from a small Chinese village, and Luo Changyu (Hao Zheng), the new village teacher, the innocence of falling in love and the real sacrifices one makes for love. One of the most important elements of Zhao’s courtship is the food she prepares for him. And one of the most artistically important scenes in the film shows an old man who delicately pieces together the fragments of a broken bowl, the very bowl that Zhao used to feed the man she loved. She was devastated when the bowl broke, and everything seems again to change now that it is being remade. The craftsmanship of the old man and the way this sequence is filmed, so emotionally charged, carry an incredible amount of symbolism, something that words could never accomplish. The entire movie relies very little on dialogue, but the story it tells will move you more than words ever could.
photos: film stills | Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Guangxi Film Studio