MOUNTAIN CRY. China, 2015, 107 minutes, Colour. Yueting Lang, Ziyi Wang, Taishen Cheng, Ailei Yu. Directed by Larry Yang.
Mountain Cry is a Chinese drama set in remote mountain locations in the middle of the 1980s.
The film introduces us to two characters, a young woman who is seen to be brutally raped by her husband, then cradling a baby, as they come up the mountains to a remote village. the other character is a young man from the village, rather earnest, somewhat carefree, who sets detonators to trap badgers. The location photography of the vast mountains is often breathtaking.
These two stories collide when the husband of the young woman, who is mute, is asked by his daughter to go out into the forest to collect some berries. He finds them but steps into the badger trap, his foot separated from his leg, the people from the village taking him back to his house where he dies.
There is an irony because we know of the tensions between husband and wife but the people in the village, accusing the young man of being responsible for the death, have some compassion so that the widow and children will be cared for. With a meeting of the elders, a document is drawn up to which the woman agrees that the young man will provide for the family until he is able to pay compensation.
What the audience anticipates comes to pass, that the young man is earnest in his support of the woman, that she is grateful, that they become attracted to each other, that meals are shared, work in the fields, a visit to a travelling opera company.
This performance provides the occasion for flashbacks where we see the actual story of the mute woman, of her being abducted from the opera as a child, the cruelty of the Master and his cutting her tongue, and the fact that he had murdered his wife. This gives a stronger context to what was happening in the village.
The people in the village want to cover up the situation from the police, to preserve their reputation, but it emerges that the dead man was on the run from the police and the villagers want the young woman to be expelled from their village. The initial compassion turns into crowd-mentality for ousting her.
The young man defends her. His father, from whom he was estranged, intervenes in the situation. The police do come to arrest the young man and he is willing to undergo this to save the woman.
At which stage, there is a dramatic twist in the plot, looking again at the situation of the dead man and a change of anticipated ending, an ending of pathos with issues of guilt, responsibility – although there is a final image of hope with a woman on the mountaintop banging a basin with exhilaration.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.