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Chinese auteur seeks inspiration from the dark side

China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-06 07:30

From left: Cast members Liao Fan, Gwei Lun-mei, director Diao Yinan, actor Hu Ge and actress Wan Qian pose at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. [Photo/Agencies]

"As a filmmaker, my view is always from the people who are living at the bottom of society, this is my perspective," Chinese film director Diao Yinan says.

"There is something very universal about a story like this, because the same character, wherever he might be, he will be punished and he might be shot at the end as well," says Diao, whose movie The Wild Goose Lake was presented in the main competition section at the 72nd edition of the Cannes International Film Festival which ended on May 25.

The film tells the story of a gang leader-on the run after a murder-who is seeking redemption, and a girl in trouble who is ready to risk everything to gain her freedom. In a dark and gloomy atmosphere, both are hunted on the hidden shores of the Wild Goose Lake. And they set a deadly gamble for what may be their last day.

Speaking about the movie, Diao says: "I don't see this as a uniquely Chinese situation in the sense that this could happen in China. I do think that there is something universal about humanity; the way we react and behave in certain situations and environments."

The film took a long time to emerge.

After winning an international award for an earlier film in 2014, the director took a break of a year, then he spent two years developing the script, another year putting together the cast and finally one more year to shoot the film.

"It is a universal fact that sooner or later we are going to die," says Diao. "I think that what is different, in terms of the standpoint of this film, is that we dramatize the fact that it is more important to reflect on what is the value of life and what it means to live."

Diao says that for one of the characters, the final reward justifies the journey to get them through the sense of fear and to find courage.

"We all have things that we are suffering from, or challenges that we face. This is a dramatized version of the struggle we all go through," says the movie director.

Lovers of film noir will recognize the influence of many noir classics from the United States, and also new French noir films inspired by the same classics.

"As a genre I think it is as much about the sense of cynicism that exists in a society, but that cynicism is not serious. My characters are seriously cynical in what they are examining and exploring, so I think what I like is this seriousness of being cynical and very critical about something they want to say and express," he says.

Asked about his inspiration from noir films, the director says: "The way I arrived at this particular noir genre was not on purpose, the stories I write about reflect the reality in China, they incidentally include all the signature elements of the film noir genre."

Speaking about the movie's locations, the Chinese director stressed that at a philosophical level, the areas he scouted and decided to use had a lot to do with his upbringing.

He grew up in a suburban area and not in a metropolis. So he felt he knows the people who are in that type of community.

"In this particular film, I thought it makes sense for someone on the run from crime that they will not go to very bright spaces. So I tried to find a dark and dreary place, with a shadowy underworld which would be a good place to hide. This situation creates a sort of dystopia for the people and the person who is on the run," he says.

Diao was featured in the competition section at the Cannes festival in 2007, with his movie Night Train.

In 2014, he won the Golden Bear of the Berlin film festival with the film Black Coal, Thin Ice.


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