Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Frühlingsglaube the movie 立春

It's late winter, in a grim industrial town in North China.  Hundreds of workers cycle to their humdrum jobs. Broadcast on loudspeakers,  a soprano sings Schubert Frühlingsglaube D 686 with its beautiful message of Spring, hope and change.  Zhou Yu, a rough looking worker with unkempt hair, is transfixed by the beauty in the song and stops in the middle of the road to listen. He tracks down the singer Wang Tsai-ling (蔣雯麗 Jiang Wen-li, in real life a beauty and the wife of the director)) and begs her to reach him how to sing. She's impatient to be off to Beijing to train at the conservatory, but she sings Puccini for him. For roughneck Zhou, the music she makes is like a visitation from heaven.
And the Spring Comes ( 立春 )(2007), directed by Gu Chiang Wei, has won many art film awards and rightly so, for it's a beautiful movie, and one which should resonate with anyone who believes in the power of music, and dreams. Miss Wang wants to be an opera singer in Beijing. She's rejected in auditions and turned down for jobs but doesn't lose heart. Zhou the worker has a friend, Huang Sibao, who wants to be a painter. Even his mum thinks he's no good. Miss Wang, believing in the redeeming power of art, poses as his life model, and falls in love. He resents having been intimate with her and humiliates her in front of the whole school where she teaches girls to sing Frühlingsglaube. Dressed in one of her home-made opera gowns, she attempts suicide but survives. Good-hearted Zhou wants to take care of her, but she needs to find her own way. She goes to a bar and gets drunk, telling the waiter that she's the chief soprano at the National Opera. She sings, he's impressed, and for a moment she lives her dream.

Miss Wang meets Mr Hu, a ballet dancer, on an open-air arts event. She sings Mendelssohn On the Wings of Song. When he dances, the locals giggle with embarrassment because he's wearing tight pants.   "I am the source of many people's confusions about themselves", he says, "the source of many scandals". People attack him in the streets because they think he's a freak. "You have courage" says Miss Wang. Eventually, even Mr Hu breaks down. In a desperate attempt to prove something, he attempts to rape one of his female students and ends up in prison. When Miss Wang visits him, his spirit is broken. He grins with an insane smile "I'm happy here, really I am" he says. She leaves in tears.

Two strange women come to ask Miss Wang for lessons. The tall girl is bald. She says she's an amateur who is dying of cancer and wants to sing on a TV talent show. Miss Wang is suspicious as the girl is good and clearly has professional training. The girl goes on TV and has her moment of glory, but confesses that she doesn't have cancer, and that  she did the whole thing to impress an older, manipulative male teacher. Talent, evidently, is not enough.

"O frischer Duft, o neuer Klang! Nun, armes Herze, sei nicht bang! Nun muß sich alles, alles wenden" Gradually the hope of Spring germinates in Miss Wang's heart. She visits her parents at the New Year. Dad is crippled from a stroke, but mum cares for him. Miss Wang decides to get back the money she gave an intermediary to bribe her way into getting the precious Residence Permit for Beijing. By chance she spots Painter Huang, who now  runs a dodgy marriage bureau, still scamming everyone he can.. She feels pity, not love. Miss Wang's beautiful neighbour gets abandoned by her husband. The girl seemed to have everything Miss Wang doesn't have, yet suddenly, all is gone in a flash.

Time after time, Miss Wang has being kind to others, without reward. Now she seems to realize that being kind is a reward in  itself. She adopts a little girl. Like  Miss Wang herself, the girl has been rejected because she was born with a cleft palate. She gets a humble job,, chopping and selling meat. Gradually she has enough money to pay for surgery. At the clinic, she meets Worker Zhou, who is now happily married and has a daughter.  In their own ways, Zhou and Miss Wang have achieved things not given to others. Miss Wang brings her daughter up well. They go on an outing to Tien An Men Square. The kid laughs happily. For a moment, Miss Wang  dreams of singing at the Beijing Symphony Hall : "Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore, non feci mai male ad anima viva! Con man furtiva
quante miserie conobbi aiutai........."
  But perhaps Miss Wang has been rewarded, after all.

No comments: