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It seems that, every few years, there are one or two Chinese films
that, despite being slow-paced, dark, and lacking A-list stars, somehow
manage to attract a large domestic audience without being controversial
enough to risk complete censorship. In 2014, the only example I have
seen so far is this, Black Coal, Thin Ice. The reason for its domestic
success is presumably because of its awards at the Berlin Film
As the story unfolds, despite being based around a series of murders,
the film has a pace more similar to an art-house film than a crime-
thriller. A couple of scenes were impressively disturbing, made even
more so by the slow paced, subtle atmosphere surrounding them.
The setting of a polluted, dark, seedy city in a long Heilongjiang
winter seems perfect for the noir tone of the film. A subtle musical
score, with some dissonant strings combined with (terrible) Chinese pop
songs (intra-diegetic) creates a fantastic atmosphere. The closest
thing to it I have seen is Suzhou River, which, now I come to think of
it, has a lot of similar motifs (I haven't seen Diao Yinan's previous
The acting performances were all impressive, the female lead (played by
Taiwanese Gwei/Gui Lun-Mei) seemed suitably out of place in the Far
Northeast of Mainland China. Liao Fan's male lead, and Wang Xuebing's
character, were both impressive.
Despite a bit of dark humour that made me giggle, Black Coal, Thin Ice
is a relentlessly grim and slightly disturbing film. I was impressed
that it wasn't (more) censored in China, as it paints a pretty
depressing picture. Despite being enthralled by the film, I won't be
booking a flight to Heilongjiang any time soon.
Tags for Bai ri yan huo Full Movie
, Fan Liao
, Jingchun Wang
, Lun Mei Gwei
, Xuebing Wang
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