Nineteen twenties China, a time of transtion and hope, as the feudal society reluctantly bows to the promise of a new republic. In the remote North West, barely touched by change for thousands of years, a young girl is being carried to an arranged marriage. One of her bearers, a peasant, battles to save her from abduction at the hands of bandits. Perhaps the subsequent events could only happen in a feudal, repressive culture but the story has a timeless, universal quality and appeal.
From the smallest incidental detail to the vast panoramic vision Huang Jianzxin's saga of love and lore uses the stark beauty of the land, and traditional marriage customs and practices, to explore the often debilitating concept of the all powerful family in Chinese culture. From the humiliating testing of the virginity of a young mistress, to the practice requiring a widow to sleep with a carved wooden effigy of her husband, filmmaker Huang (a 'Fifth Generation' director whose sumptuous vision parallels films such as Red Sorghum and Yellow Earth) dissects the intricate web of ritual and repression with this intensely metaphorical critique.
Huang Jianzxin's first film, The Black Cannon Incident was screened at the 1987 Melbourne International Film Festival; his brand new film Back To Back, Face To Face also features this year.