Regarded as the finest work from the first great era of Chinese filmmaking, Fei Mu’s quiet, piercingly poignant study of adulterous desire and guilt-ridden despair – now restored – is a remarkable rediscovery.
After eight years of marriage to Liyan – once rich but now sickly and almost suicidally apathetic following a long, ruinous war – Yuwen feels so drained that she too does little except mutely deliver his daily medication. Suddenly, a surprise visit from Liyan’s doctor friend Zhang re-energises the household, the invalid included.
His teenage sister is not alone in her excitement over the much-travelled guest; Yuwen knew him before her marriage… Eliciting a superb performance from Wei Wei as Yuwen, whose pained voiceover offers insights into her conflicted feelings, Fei creates a tense, sensual chamberwork steeped in suspicion and suppressed longing, deep resentments and half-spoken truths.
The metaphorical use of objects and locations, the telling camera movements and frequent dissolves make for a fraught, febrile mood of hesitant passion, entrapment.
Belfast Film Festival films will not feature ads or trailers and will, therefore, start at the advertised time.