Tuesday, June 5, 2007

the road home

The Road Home (Zhang Yimou, 1999) - 8/10

Why not take that one last path to the road home? Another beautifully told dramatic tale from Zhang Yimou. Opening with black and white moving visuals, The Road Home glances back to the life of a young Di (played by Zhang Ziyi), into a luscious and colourful landscape enveloping a small village. Before elaborating into the past life of Di, we first learn of her husband's passing. Yusheng, Di's son, is realyed the news of the passing, where he leaves the city for the village where Di resdies. By Di's request, she envisions a long tradition of the funeral procession being carried along a road that connect the city to the village. For one last moment, she wants to walk side by side with her husband to the road home.

The story of Di is narrated by her son, Yusheng, as he tries to uncover why fulfilling his mother's request would mean everything to her. The simplicity of Yimou's film -- witnessed in his other poignant film, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles -- uses beautiful imagery to help capture the emotions of the characters and mood. Zhang Ziyi, as the young Di, endures a graceful and innocent look, painted on her face, making it easy for us to care for her character.

Di and Changyu are 18 and 20 years old respectively. Yimou doesn’t forget they are 18 and 20 years old, young and ambitious. Like school kids in love. When Di fetches water from a well, she glances below to see Changyu reaching for the well. Her bucket already filled with water is dumped back into the well. And how does Yimou capture our interest when an elderly man puts together pieces of a broken bowl? The imagery to capture emotion, as we realize the emotional connectivity the bowl has for Di, and her devotion and care into making the perfect meal for Changyu.

The expansion into the character of Changyu could have gone further. After 40 years, what is it about Changyu that has made Di love him after all these years. Is it just the pleasure of hearing his voice? Or the young, blind love that has carried on for 40 years? Di’s devotion to Changyu, who has been strayed away from her in the beginning, makes her character ever more fragile. As the funeral procession to the road home commences, we may not feel emotion for Changyu, but I would think Yimou would like us to sympathize for Changyu through Di.

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