Melodrama in Chinese
Melodrama is a form deeply rooted in the tradition of Chinese arts. In the Mao Zedong era it was almost the main genre made by socrealistic directors. The filmmakers of The Fifth Generation, for instance Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Tian Zhuandzhuang, wanted to be different, i.e. Non-melodramatic. They identified the melodramatic forms with the dark epoch of the Cultural Revolution. However, the rebellion has not succeeded. It was too difficult to separate completely from the cultural legacy that is older than communistic output. The movies of the eighties and nineties made by the directors from the Fifth Generation have been called by Jerome Silbergeld “the children of melodrama”. These include the following titles: Yellow Earth (1984) and King of Children (1987) by Chen Kage, The Black Cannon Incident (1985) by Huang Jianxin, Red Sorghum (1987), Ju Dou (1991), Raise the Red Lantern (1992) by Zhang Yimou. Some of the films are deconstructive towards the form of melodrama as, for example, Kage’s Temptress Moon (1996). Alicja Helman discusses in her essay Zhang’s Ju Dou because of its special complexity – “on one side it can be told like the most simple Hollywood melodrama, and on the other side it consists of some references and messages read on at least a few levels”. To analyze and interpret the film, Helman calls for some important motives of Chinese Confucianism and mythology (the myth of Fuxi). Ju Dou is an adaptation of a short story Fuxi, fuxi by Liu Heng so the author of the essay writes also on the relation between the two works. In the movie Zhang has vividly tried to strengthen the melodramatic structure of the literary, rather realistic, plot. He has sharpened the conflicts, simplified the psychology of characters. Zhang has omitted the political allusions present in the short story but this does not mean that the film has not got any metaphorical or allegorical sense. However, this sense is simply broad. Allegorical, indirect speaking is a way of communicating deeply rooted in the Chinese cultural, aesthetical tradition. Helman also takes into account the artistic, sensual form of the Zhang’s movie, especially setting off redness, yellow and gold which can be viewed as emulating the tradition of the Chinese paintings.