MOHAN GURUSWAMY | 7 JUNE, 2019
Coming Home - Where Family Overpowers All
A must see movie
Coming Home (simplified Chinese: 归来; traditional Chinese: 歸來; pinyin: guīlái) is a 2014 Chinese drama film directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Chen Daoming and Gong Li.
One evening in Xiamen was set aside for the new offering by Zhang Yimou, starring his longtime and legendary muse, Gong Li. Gong Li who is a superb actor and an exquisite beauty transformed herself into an middle aged and tired wife bringing up a teenaged daughter amidst the ravages of the Cultural Revolution. The story is based on a novel by Yan Geling "The Criminal Lu Yanshi".
While the action opens during the 10-year Cultural Revolution, its main male character, Lu Yanshi, played by Chen Daoming, is a political “rightist” who is already in jail. In total, he spends 20 years there. When he finally comes home his wife, Feng Wanyu, played by Ms. Gong, has crumpled under the weight of multiple tragedies that affect not only her husband but her daughter and herself, and she is in a state of traumatized forgetfulness. Her husband stands by her.
My two Chinese escorts, both much too young to have experienced the Cultural Revolution and the Big Brother state that turned not only neighbors against each other but tore families apart. Young Chinese are experiencing an unprecedented prosperity and a life free of the pain and fright their parents or grandparents were enveloped by. They only have a vague sense of what happened.
The movie hall was not exactly overflowing, but the audience was mainly young, who were viewing the past for the first time. It then devolved on my Indian companion, Ambassador TCA Rangachari, a fluent Mandarin speaker and one who served in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution years to bring the two youngsters up to date on the halcyon times China lived through.
It is always a joy to behold Gong Li. She has an incandescent beauty which lights up the screen. She can tell an story of an entire lifteime of waiting and suffering by the mere flicker of her eyelids. Even a slight spread of the lips towards a smile can express the joy of momentary recollection and recognition.
In this movie Gong Li goes from middle age to old age and only she can carry it off with grace and dignity, as she portrays a wife who in the waiting for her imprisoned husband loses what she treasures the most - her memory of him. It is caused by the trauma of a daughter betraying her father to the State.
Chen Daoming plays the husband, Lu Yanshi, who the party imprisons. His expressive face conveys the pain and anguish only a husband can experience by the loss of mind of a dearly loved one.
As Zhang explains: “Coming Home” examines history and society itself. In a developing country like China, of course we Chinese people are constantly fighting against all kinds of disasters. Natural disasters, man-made disasters, you know, all kinds of disasters. But we, the Chinese people, are going to keep fighting.”
“Our material lives are much much better compared to 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, but what this film is trying to say is” that family love is essential to surviving “whatever material poverty or political disasters or natural disasters may befall. You can survive everything."
This movie was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, but I doubt if Aishwarya Rai or Deepika Padukone or the rest of the Bombay film folk would have seen it.