Huangtudi Essay

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Pages: 10

Does the film Huang tudi (Yellow Earth) offer a critique of the Communist revolution? If so where and how?

Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou’s Yellow Earth is a meaningful and controversial film that highlights the young and old, realist and idealist, as well as the ideal utopia and bounded bureaucracies – touching on the notion of fate. Set in early 1939 in China, Yellow Earth follows the story of Gu Qing, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) soldier sent out among the peasants in Northern Shaanxi to collect folksongs, to which the Communists intend to rewrite new lyrics to help inspire soldiers and peasant followers to fight the Japanese invasion and work towards the revolution. Gu Qing comes across a village holding a wedding procession and is
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This could highlight the filmmaker’s intention of associating Hanhan’s hope for change with the CR. The film as a whole also uses a lot of pregnant pauses, with the close up of the characters expressions, and slow panning scenes across landscapes. These silences help dramatise scenes, which help the audience absorb the emotional and visual aspects of the storyline.

Much of the film’s critique of the Communist Revolution is based largely on both Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou’s upbringing and background during the time. Zhang Yimou was deprived of the possibility to acquire social recognition during his younger years, due to the fact that his father and two of his uncles had been officers in Chiang Kaishek’s Nationalist army. Along with his entire family, Zhang suffered long years of social and political discrimination and punishments. Barred from entering the Red Guards, he worked in an agricultural production brigade during the Cultural Revolution (Chong, Woei Lien, 2003). Similarly, Chen Kaige was also the victim of his “bad class background”, as his father, a well-known film director, had been labelled a “Rightist” in 1957 and was the victim of renewed attacks during the CR. In order to prove himself to the Communist establishment, Chen Kaige actively participated in Red Guard activity, even to the point of disavowing his father during a “criticism” session, and he followed Mao’s call to undertake “revolutionary work” in the countryside. He worked on a rubber