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Myriad of Lights Essay

In: Film and Music

Submitted By dsh0520
Words 624
Pages 3
Sunny Heo
22 September 2014
Myriad of Lights: A Classic
Myriads of Light, regarded as one of Chinese cinema classics, tells the story of a family uprooted by the combined forces of economic recession and social judgment, and forced into a struggle for survival. Although its setting is the post-war period, where severe poverty seemed common, the film does more than to describe the dilemma of middle-class Shanghai dwellers. Director Shen Fu uses the existing social problem as a background for the development of the film’s major themes: familial survival and the related struggle for human dignity; at the same time, he especially emphasizes the conflict between urbanites and those from the countryside.
The success of the film’s story owes much to its strong dramatic structure. Following the chronological order of events with Zhiqing and his family’s harmonious morning to the resulting tension after Zhiqing receives the letter from his mother, the film moves with a growing intensity toward the climax. The film’s major conflict between the urbanites and the countrymen is introduced almost right after Old Mrs. Hu and Chenshung (with his family as well) arrive, as Zhiqing and Youlan discuss about the possibility of their daughter getting lice from the dirty visitors. The director’s use of dramatic irony shines in this scene, as the camera focuses on Old Mrs. Hu’s glittering eyes in the dark, eavesdropping on the worried couple’s conversation. By highlighting the emerging internal familial division using lighting techniques, Fu successfully introduces future intense complications between Youlan and Old Mrs. Hu.
Symbolism is another tool used by Fu to add to the dramatic structure of the film. Although overlooked by many film viewers, Zhiqing’s household cat serves as an important symbol for familial unity and manifests the ideological conflict between the urbanites and countrymen. The scene where Old Mrs. Hu rejects the cat from her lap is significant; from this scene, the viewers are lead to interpret that Old Mrs. Hu, embodying the voice of those from the country-side, does not approve of the additional “mouth to feed” within the family. The cat is surely regarded as a member of the Hu family, as it appears in the family picture, but in times of financial sufferings, it is inevitable degraded into a mere luxury which now the economically-broken family cannot continue to manage. To Mrs. Hu, as she states toward the climax of the movie, the household cat is an object that “can make [us] betray [our] beliefs” and therefore is a threat to her value of human dignity.
Another facet of the film that adds to its believability of plotline is the understated handling of the emotional material. Myriad of Lights can be examined in the context of melodrama; it fluidly fits with its general description of conveying intense emotion and drama. However, in a more speculated sense, according to Berry and Farquhar, a “melodrama may prove central to who [we] are as a nation” (75). Incidentally, as China in this era experienced severe forms of internal division resulting from the various wars, Hu family in Myriad of Lights undergoes critical conflicts that drives them toward separation. This clever reference is what engaged the audience at that time to connect to the credible plotline of the film and therefore what lead to the ultimate success of the movie.
Although many Chinese films have proven memorable for both good and bad reasons, only a few have come to be regarded as true ‘classics’. Myriad of Lights, as one such example of a ‘classical’ film, centers on a universal concern of familial sufferings and convinces the viewers that hardships during economic sufferings are caused not by individuals, but by the “fault of the current bad situation”.

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