"The Park" Poetic Treatment for the Generation Gap By Ayman Youssef

in 56th International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg

by Ayman Youssef

Changes in society and the gap between generations have become more important and more urgent topics for discussions worldwide. Widely discussed on various levels in the social sciences, literature and in the media, these topics have also taken an important place in the film industries for years. The generation gap topics have enjoyed a certain importance in Chinese society but perhaps it is only natural as China has been going through large transformation, where different aspects of life and society have evolved over the past few years.

Such topics have been the subject in so many Chinese films, among them The Soap Opera which won the FIPRESCI prize film in Pusan, and the best direction award in Geneva’s cinema Tout Ecran Festival in 2004. The film exposed the negative aspects of social changes represented in violence and indifference for the others. The Road, another Chinese film that won the main award in Cairo international Film Festival in 2006, showed the comparison, between two contemporary times, the Mao Tong time and the present day China, through the eyes of a woman who lived both times but rather belongs to the principles and the social values of Mao’s time.

In The Park (Gongyuan) 2007, Yin Lichuan, a young woman director, focused on the daily social life and behaviors of the Chinese Youth, who have long since taken different routes and paths from the rooted traditions. We see this through the misunderstandings and gaps of opinions between a retired, conservative soldier father and his liberated and modern daughter Xiaojun who works as a TV reporter. The father has temporarily left his home village and traveled to Kunming city to visit his daughter as he is concerned that she is soon entering into her thirties and has not yet married. Wishing to find a husband for his unmarried daughter he suggests that he will go to the city park where parents of unmarried young people meet at a type of ‘marriage market’ exchanging photos and information about their sons and daughters and offer each other their children in the traditional Chinese style. At first Xiaojun refuses her father’s suggestion mainly because she lives with her boy friend, Hu Song, whom she loves. Her father is upset about this free and unmarried relationship ‘families are the base for a stable society’, to which she answers ‘no one here needs a lesson in politics’.

Xiaojun also informs her father that ‘times have changed’. And right she was, over the course of the film the father witnesses several events which surprise him; Xiaojun’s ex-boyfriend abandons her and get married to a man, he gets hit by someone who doesn’t apologize to him, and his wallet gets stolen in the railway station. These negative features have unfortunately become a part of everyday modern life in China.

When Xiaojun thinks that Hu has let her down she accepts her father’s suggestion about the marriage market in the park, and she eventually chooses a man among the marriage candidates. However her father overhears this man talking to his friend whom he finds out is actually his boyfriend. He tells him that he is going to marry Xiaojun to keep his mother happy but he will always love him and they will stay together. At this point Xiaojun’s father is in shock and can’t believe what is happening around him and he eventually gets very sick. He becomes weak and decides to go home.

Fine Film Language

Well what is the difference between The Park and other films that have dealt with the same topic? The difference here is the poetic treatment of the topic and the fine film language used in it and the subtle and low tone expression of the crisis. Despite the harsh topic you can enjoy great compositions of nature’s elements. Despite the flat in which many of the scenes take place is quite small, the director’s use of doors and edges of the walls made good influential frames. The music in the film was carefully composed and was played at the right time. When the father comes out the train station in the opening scene the camera movement was very smooth and stable, yet when his wallet was stolen, also at the station, and he was furious, a shoulder camera was used to represent the internal tension and external anger of the usually calm father. The use of a shoulder camera here was meaningful unlike its use in other films.

The use of shot sizes in the film was ideal; most of the shots were long, medium shots were only used in the right situations. The first close-up shot came almost half an hour into the films 97 minutes and came in the critical situation when the father embarrassed his daughter by telling her boyfriend ‘my daughter is not young anymore’. The close shot here was very significant as it captured the hurt and sore feelings he had inflicted upon her.

The father (Wang Deshun) and daughter (Li Jia) delivered fine and exact acting. The moments of silence in the film were more eloquent than any dialogue. The closing scene was very poetic and touching as the reconciliation between the father and daughter prevailed. In this scene the daughter remembers how close she was to her father when she was young, especially as her mother had died when she was three, and how up to now she never really feels safe without her father by her side. No wonder the film took such a poetic approach; the writer Yin Lichuan is basically a writer and poet.