Quick recap: A wife has grown tired of her daily life- chores, shopping, and taking care of her ailing husband. One day a man shows up who turns out to be the husband’s best friend but also the wife’s former love. Drama ensues as the two fall madly in love again. Once in awhile they remember that the husband is still around and sick to boot, and they feel like jerks in the end.
Fun (?) fact: The Communist party buried the film after its release in China because of lack of politics. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that people really started to appreciate the movie.
My thoughts: I audibly groaned when I found out this movie was next on the list because the whole thing seemed like torture to watch: a black and white foreign film about love and loss. Bleck. I especially winced as the opening credits came on the screen because they were jumpy and the audio kept going in and out. The opening scene is of the wife walking along the city wall as she does a voiceover explaining the unhappiness that is her life. It caught me off guard, to see such a ‘modern’ filmmaking tool such as voiceover to tell a story. I know this wasn’t the first film to do so, but it was still impressive to see, considering what the US had been churning out at the time.
As the plot revealed itself, I was calmed by its simplicity. Foreign films have a reputation as being hard to follow and I admit that I don’t have much experience watching films from China. So this was a pleasant surprise. ‘Simplicity’ might not be the best word to use to describe the film because the emotions that are laid out for the audience are quite complex. The friend cares deeply for the husband and his health but he is also still in love with the wife. He is a good person and really, all of the characters can be described as ‘good’. I felt sympathy for everyone, even the wife as she must make a decision to stay or go. Her love for her husband was apparent but she also had to reconcile with the reality that she had married a very sick man who was unable to give her what she needed.
Above everything else, I was mostly blown away by the fact that the entire story is told in two settings and between 5 characters. Big budget films can draw audiences in, but in the end, sometimes simplicity is needed to truly tell a story.
Final review: 4/5. Modern audiences can still appreciate the story, although it isn’t for everyone.
Up next: All the President’s Men