Monday, December 20, 2010
When one thinks of China, even in the late twentieth century, one often contemplates the economic giant, modernizing and dominating the Asian theatre if not the entire world; one thinks of huge, bustling cities and tough governmental control. But there are many seamy undersides, one of which is portrayed in Blind Mountain (2007). In the last decade of the twentieth century, a college-educated woman is kidnapped from a big city by flesh peddlers and is forced into marriage in a remote northern village. Stubbornly and persistently she resists her enslavement, despite brutal beatings and rapes, isolation and constant surveillance, repeatedly trying to escape or contact outside help. Members of the family use every tactic at their disposal to control her, from participating in her initial rape to attempting to draw her in through inducements and talks with women similarly betrothed, and the family eventually celebrates the pregnancy that develops. The entire community, in fact, accepts and embraces wife stealing, from top authorities on down---a rigid system that forces women into compliance and blocks any outside interference, even from national police authorities. The misogynistic families will do anything to win sons, but their destruction of female offspring leads to a large male population needing brides. The very attractive Huang Lu plays the determined, angry Bai Xuemei, who despite her brutalization, still finds time to help educate the young boys in the village. She is caught up in an affair (partly in hopes of using it to escape her captivity), but it is ferreted out by the family, and the man is driven from the village (seemingly more for having broken the strict system than actually cuckolding Bai’s husband. Each disappointment ratchets up her determination to escape, leading to a desperate conclusion. As disheartening and maddening as the film is for those rooting for Bai (reminding me a lot of how I felt at the injustice portrayed in the Iranian movie The Stoning of Soroya M.), there are lovely film sequences and beautiful backdrops, and the acting is pretty good. Some sections are a bit lengthy. One wonders how Chinese authorities reacted to the film (as officially such treatment of women is forbidden) and if this condition still exists. There are small insights as well, such as the payments expected for medical treatment (which I was surprised about since I thought medicine was socialist there), to the willingness of so many people to turn a blind eye. It is a film worth watching, but it will leave the viewer angry.