|Poster (file photo)|
Top 10: White Deer Plain
A film adaptation of the literary classic "White Deer Plain" condenses the lives of 20 characters at a formative time in China's history and stars the director Wang Quan'an's wife Kitty Zhang Yuqi, taking on the lead female role of Tian Xiao'e .
The story traces the ups and downs of two rural clans in the first half of the 20th century in Shaanxi. Its original book, published in 1993 by Chen Zhongshi, won China's top literature honor, the Mao Dun Literature Prize, and has been a popular story among Chinese directors, Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige included.
Wang Quan'an first read "White Deer Plain" when he was a student at Beijing Film Academy. The family saga, set in Shaanxi Province, features an abundance of history and sex. Many filmmakers have considered "White Deer Plain" to be a novel that could not be successfully adapted onto the screen. Wang Quan'an finally managed to collect the necessary investments and move on to actually do the film--after several rewritings of the script in past years.
To digest more than 20 major characters' life choices over a span of 50 years was so challenging that Wang's first cut was 220 minutes. However, Wang Quan'an's lack of narrative skills didn't do enough to pull off such a long and complex story even though the film can boast stunning visual effects and convincing performances.
Shortly before he took it to 2012's Berlin festival as the only competing Chinese film, he edited it down to 160 minutes, removing mainly scenes set after 1938 -- one year after the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937- 45) had started. The film went on to win a Silver Bear for best cinematography at the Berlin festival.
In the 156-minute re-edited version, later shown in Chinese theaters, the story ends in 1938. Some sex scenes are thought to have been cut, when the videos and photos of several explicit scenes were hyped in the Chinese media.
Many elements around the film were hotly discussed and debated, turning the film into the phenomenon of the year. Yet it fails to deliver a decent interpretation of the classic novel, despite the strong support of and performance by director's newly-wed wife. Alas, the scale and vision of film are disappointingly narrow and the movie should have been called "The Story of Tian Xiao'e" instead of "White Deer Plain."
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