DVD Review: Blind Mountain (aka Mang Shan) (2007)

13 Apr

Dir: Li Yang

It’s not often you watch a film where you are simultaneously horrified and grateful; horrified by the events of the film (which are based on true stories) but grateful that you weren’t born a Chinese woman. Blind Mountain is such a film as this, depicting the harsh reality of being born a girl in a country that places a higher value on boys.

Bai Xuemei (Huang Lu) has just graduated from college but along with the rest of the country is finding it hard to secure work. When she meets a girl who tells her they can make a lot of money scouting for medical herbs in the countryside Bai is ecstatic, finally she can pay off her family’s debts. After a long drive into the mountains Bai is drugged and wakes to discover she has been sold to a rural family as a wife for their son. It soon becomes clear the entire village is in on this act and Bai is not the first girl to be bought as a wife; her constant pleas to be let go fall on deaf ears but her fighting spirit is not extinguished.

Blind Mountain is quite a remarkable film, the brutal nature of the story is beautifully played against the stunning landscape; the sweeping mountain ranges both picturesque and a reminder of the jail Bai is being held in. Escape is not an option, despite Bai’s attempts; the landscape is harsh, you need money to get out of the local town, and as soon as the alarm is sounded, the village men are quick to track the escapee down. Because of these reasons the film has a downbeat tone, and at times it was verging on depressing to watch. There’s a particularly intense rape scene which occurs, which achieves the shock/horror effect brilliantly but is ultimately hard to watch for its entirety. That said, Blind Mountain may be one of those films you need only watch once. Soon the fact that this is not just a film, that stories like Bai’s exist, comes to the forefront of your mind, and this adds to the impact of Bai’s captors’ brutality.

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What makes this film worth watching, because let’s face it there are enough bad things in the real world without having to subject yourself to a film full of physical violence and abduction, is Bai’s unending determination to make it back home. She will not accept this situation as her fate, and whilst she makes the best of it by taking on the role of teacher to the village’s poor students she never lets go of the idea of escaping. In this respect it’s quite an inspirational story, but one that you really do need to stick with through the sometimes uncomfortable subject matter. The ending alone is reason enough to seek Blind Mountain out, I was literally yelling at the television, ‘What!?’ I was that surprised at my emotional investment in Bai by the end of the film.

Special features: There are no special features on the DVD except for the original theatrical trailer and some Madman propaganda. Whilst I probably wouldn’t have wanted to sit through a making of featurette,  I would have liked to see some sort of feauturette on the truth behind this story, the real life Bais who have been sold off as wives. There’s a certain feeling left with you after watching a film such as Blind Mountain, a feeling of wanting to know is this still going on? How common is this occurrence? Can anything be done? I suppose if you feel the same as I did as the credits rolled, you can always find this out for yourself.This is director Yang Li’s second film, I would say approach with caution and be prepared for an emotional but rewarding viewing experience.

Jess Lomas

Links:

Available through MADMAN

Jess Lomas’s blog: A new level of nerdiness

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