The late 1920s in a God-forsaken part of northwest China. My grandmother (18) is sitting in a bridal sedan chair on her way to her groom, the distiller Li (50) […]. His father has sold her to Li. The price: a donkey.
As the sedan chair is passing an abandoned cornfield, it is attacked by a masked robber. While the robber is attempting to kidnap the bride, Yu, the sedan-chair carrier, strikes him dead […] The bride’s foot appears through the opening between the sedan’s curtains. Yu takes hold of the foot and gently pushes it back inside (a symbolic declaration, and reciprocation, of love).
According to the customs of the time, the bride, after spending three days at the house of the groom, has to return to her parents before the marriage can be concluded. When she passes the cornfield again, this time accompanied by her father, she is again waylaid by a masked man and dragged deep into the red millet field ─ this time by Yu, the sedan-chair carrier. They make love. [...]
When (after some time has elapsed) the marriage is due to take place, Li, the bride, is nowhere to be found. As a “widow”, my grandmother takes charge of the distillery and marries Yu, the sedan-chair carrier. Business is good: she is popular among the workers and enjoys the support of Luo Han, the estate manager. […]
My father, who was engendered in the cornfield, is now nine years old. The Japanese come. They round up the population. They want to destroy the cornfield so that they can build a road. To intimidate the population, they execute resistance fighters. […] Among them is the former estate manager Luo Han. The distillers swear vengeance. […]
Translated from: Dokumentation der 38. Internationalen Filmfestspiele Berlin 1988
by Zhang Yimou
with Gong Li, Jiang Wen, Teng Rujun
People's Republic of China 1987/88
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