Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Blue Kite
Mao died in 1976. Between his assumption of power in 1949 and his death is a strange period in which a series of experiments in social engineering were carried out at the cost of great suffering to ordinary people. This film narrates the experience of a single family caught in this tempestuous era.
The narrator is the boy Tietou and the movie covers the first ten years of his life, which falls in this period and we catch glimpses of the Great Leap Forward; the Anti-Rightist witch hunts; the organised and officially blessed mobs of youth whose rampages were the Cultural Revolution. The drama narrates the fortunes of the family comprising the boy's mother, the beautiful and plucky Chujuan; the three husbands she loses one after the other; her sister, a typical thoroughly brain washed, alternately politically awakened product of the period; her two brothers; and the mother, an anachronistic granny bewildered by events, as indeed are the best of them.
The reach of the party is pervasive and politics cuts sharply into private lives, often creating fissures within the family. We see the culture of mutual denunciation just as the boy's biological father is exiled to a work camp after he is reported against by a close friend. Teachers are publicly denounced and their heads shaved. His mother and third father are belabored by a mob after a poster campaign against them. It has resemblance to pre-war Germany in that people are compelled, at the point of the gun, so to say, to think in a particular way. It is a lesson in the power of distorted ideologies to wreak havoc and chaos.
Yet the scourge of Mao's reign was too short to succeed in obliterating traditional ways and we see normal humanity huddling together behind domestic walls and biding their time.
The film rips off the curtain behind which the reality of this enigmatic period is hidden. The street scenes with children at play and the details of life are realistically caught.The background score is non-existent but for brief subdued eruptions at climactic moments. A room with a bookshelf is a recurring marker, as though symbolizing the element of stability in the human heart which tempests cannot shake. Another repeated motif is a brilliant eruption of fireworks, punctuating both joy and tragedy, like the inherent energy and resilience of life.