Wednesday, December 07, 2005

[IFFI] [Movie Review] Warm Spring

Country: China

Section: Competition

The first movie that I saw at the IFFI immediately after I received my delegate pass was Warm Spring, a film made by a first time female director. This is a simple story about a waif who is found starved and unconscious by a villager. It is rural china and like all rural places, money is tight and nobody wants to adopt an extra mouth that would need to be fed. Some comment that they would have done it if the child had been a male. Yup, thats right, the male child is privileged in China too. If you did not know about this, then you might know know that women in china used to bind their feet to from childhood to make it smaller (the chinese apparently had a fetish for small feet). Anyway, the child is eventually adopted by this old man who is kind hearted and very near the age that qualifies as old geezer. But he is Zen personified and that makes him the most blandest character in the film. Dont get me wrong, I like the character but I also see it as a sure fire way to ensure zero character development.
The old man has a son with a barren woman who sees the little girl as an insult to her barrenness and tries to get rid of her a couple of times but she is unable to do it. The kid is a sweetheart, who is as kind hearted and innocent as children ought to be. She is also mature far beyond her age, perhaps going by the philosophy that children who face hardships mature faster. She does a lot of housework, helps everyone, is nice and polite, etc, etc. She also has a great zeal to learn and learns to read and write on the sly.
The rest of story is about how she manages to win everybody's heart and how she becomes the first kid from that village to go to college.
It is a great feel-good movie with a strong feminist undercurrent. The wife of the old man's son is stronger than her husband and one time manages to push him and pour water on him when he tries to get her to obey his order. She and another woman in the village, both suffer from insomnia for very different reasons. The former cannot sleep because she dreams of a beautiful baby boy and the latter cannot sleep because she has three naughty boys. Also, a girl becoming the first one from the village to get so highly educated and coming back to teach in the rural village makes the point that girl childs are not only for making babies and taking care of the family but they can better boys in terms of education and achievement in the world.
The cinematography is very good, though the camera work seemed to be a little on the amateurish side. In many landscape scenes, the cameraman does not obey the 1/3rd rule, and that makes the scene lose quite a lot of its potent. A case in point is the final scene which starts out with the outline of the mountains right in the center of the frame and as the scene progresses, it comes down to the bottom third line. In the foreground, the grown up girl and a bunch of kids are running with a kite in hand that trails behind them. As the outline of the maountains comes down, there is a dramatic increase in the impact of the scene. I know you should not be bound by rules too much but in general, the 1/3rd rule is very powerful and it should only be broken when you are making some statement.

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