Friday, January 31, 2014
Back to 1942 (2013) Chinese New Year 2014
Based on Liu Zhenyun's novel Remembering 1942 the film tells the story of the horrific famine that rocked parts of China in 1942 and Henan in particular. The film follows rich landlord Fan as his life falls apart. His home is destroyed by bandits as he is feeding the poor. He is then forced on to the road to try and find food with his family and just to survive, its a trip that slowly dwindles their numbers. Meanwhile the government does nothing to help the refugees, too focused on their own skins and fighting the war they pay no attention to the suffering in their midst, a fact the horrifies the Westerners that come in contact with the story.
You are wondering why I'm including this film in a Chinese New Year grouping of films when this is not the sort of upbeat film one would put into a Chinese New Year celebration. There are two reasons to do so, first the film begins on New Year. Secondly the film is a wonderful celebration of the Chinese film industry and it's ability to turn out fantastic looking films that put most similar Hollywood films to shame. This film is a technical marvel and to beautiful to look at even in all it's devastation. I really wish I had seen this on the big screen.
As high as I am on the look and technical aspects of the film, I'm mixed on the story. While understandably not a happy film, it is ultimately a bit too preachy for my tastes. This is a film that very much wants you to know all that is wrong with what happened and it underlines it with the inclusion of several big name actors including Adrian Brody, to play historical personages to act as a kind of Greek chorus to let us know how forgotten the people were. Its not a bad film it's just that it has a chip on it's shoulder.
That said I like the film. Its a sad tragic story that need to be told. The film has a real power despite it's hitting its audience over the head. By the end you will be broken up. Mostly though I recommend it to anyone who want to see a huge epic of the sort that they rarely do any more.