In this post, we will discuss Ju Dou, which was directed by Zhang YiMou, who directed Hero, which was discussed in my previous post. Ah, a film noir, Ju Dou was an interesting movie to watch. A story about ‘forbidden love’
(extra marital affair) between a woman (Ju Dou) and her husband’s (Jin Shan) adopted nephew (Tian Qing), which unravels scene by scene…
Similar to Hero, and as with Zhang YiMou, his work is known to be very visually appealing. Many of his films are guided by an assassin based storyline, where someone is trying to kill another person. Also, Zhang YiMou likes to work with the same actors (“recycling them”), as seen with Gong Li in Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou, The Story of Qiu Ju and Shanghai Triad.
While watching this film, I noticed how women in this movie were badly treated.. Being sold off to men to be married to them – highly likely they were bought based on how pretty they look (and of course their housekeeping skills). In addition, women were portrayed like animals (in a bad way). In the beginning of the film, Ju Dou was giving a comment about how a pig was screaming for its life… And in the very next scene, Ju Dou was screaming, from the abuse from Jin Shan. In this scene, Jin Shan was sitting on a saddle, on top of Ju Dou and whipping her as if she was some kind of beast. It was heartbreaking and confusing for me to watch. 😦
This is where Tian Qing comes into the story… Well, I was disgusted when he was peeping at Ju Dou while she was showering. Ju Dou and Tian Qing end up having a son, Tian Bai. I do not understand how a woman would end up loving a man who has been peeping at her but I suppose it was because it was her only chance of being actually loved by a man (as supposed to being bought and then giving birth to a boy).
This leads to the main theme that holds this film together, which I would think is oppression. All that these characters are, are the fruits of living in the repressive Chinese society.
To be honest I do think Ju Dou’s love story was mainly that of desperation and lust, which may have eventually evolved into love (I still think they are not actually in love yet). From a peeping Tom (never married) and an abused wife (because she has yet to bear children- a son), it was a perfect (yet morally wrong) solution to Ju Dou’s problems of being unable to have a son with infertile Jin Shan. Jin Shan was also oppressed! He had to continue his family line, and had the responsibility to uphold his family name.. That is why he is so desperate to have a son, even though he is infertile. Which was why he was so abusive (still does not justify the abuse of course)… He was probably hurt and ashamed and he vented all these feelings on his women (the perceived weaker sex and wives had to be submissive towards their husbands). He was also afraid of gossip, as it would ruin his family’s good name.
As for Tian Bai, being a product of very oppressed parents, may have also inherited Tian Qing’s quiet and submissive nature. Also, he may just have been very conflicted about loving his family vs upholding his good family name. Tian Bai and his rather deathly stares were seen when anyone was heard gossiping about his mother (upholding good family name).
Ju Dou was banned for a few years in China, most probably because how true and dark this film is.. Overall, as with Hero, there were beautiful scenes played with color, and I did enjoy this movie more than Hero simply because I could relate more to the characters.
Note: A good, short and self explanatory reading of Confucius theory/teaching on five relationships can be found here. (To understand the Chinese culture and culture depicted in the film.)