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Film Review: Red Sorghum Essay


Red Sorghum is a Chinese movie directed by Zhang Yimou. The movie depicts a young woman Jiu’er who was forced to marry old owner of winery because of her farther exchanging his daughter for a new mule.

Frustrated and overwhelmed with grief, the girl does not afraid of being hunted by the bandit. However, she was successfully rescued by one of the servants with whom she falls in love.

Though the story plot is not distinguished by originality of ideas, the cinematography makes the film fascinating and interesting to watch.

While using a sophisticated combination of music and colors, the director manages to render the feelings of the heroes, as well as provide movie with the undertone of mystery. Thus, cinematography contributes significantly to the overall atmosphere of the movie.

While watching the movie, the first thing I paid attention to was the fact that dialogues and remarks were of secondary importance for the director. Instead, the focus is made on the way landscape, colors and music contribute to unveiling the themes and ideas of the movie.

Describing peasantry on the picturesque background of sorghums, as well as representing the main heroes in an unconventional way makes me think of the movie as of the brightest example of the Chinese avant-garde.

The story acquires a mysterious and mesmerizing tone because looks and gazes tell more about feelings and emotions endured by the protagonists rather than dialogues.

I especially admire the scene when the future bride is carried in a sedan, particularly the desperate and frustrated look expressed on her face.

The dramatic effect of the scene is enhanced by the color of the sedan interior. Red colors symbolize the inevitability of the oncoming marriage, as well as the tragedy that is going to happen.

The emphasis placed on environment and colors does not only enhance the historical spirit of times, but also provides a better picture of relations, attitudes, and beliefs.

Within this context, the main heroine is not represented here as an independent individual, but a symbolically embodiment of all Chinese women. Close-ups made by camera allow to obtain a deeper understanding of how the progressive woman should look like.

Once again, the scene depicting the pre-marriage preparation and brides’ emotions proves her strength and reconciliation. Jiu’er is reluctant to reveal her weaknesses and, therefore, she accepts the challenges on her fate.

At the same time, she never rejects her willingness to love and be loved. She is definite about her life goals because the woman never stops hoping for better future.

Looking at the first scene of the movie, therefore, allows the viewers to conceive the image of progressive, emancipated Chinese women.

The scene also brightly illustrates the historic background of the time. In particular, the director introduces specific elements of the Chinese culture, including rituals, customs, and traditions.

Wedding prejudices and stereotypes are also reflected in the movie through the introductory scene. The bride ceremonial dress and hairstyle is carefully managed, which is especially important for the wedding. The colors are also symbolic.

The music accompanying the episode accentuates the importance of the moments. The ceremony is not only an important ritual, but also a kind of threshold which the heroine has to overcome. She enters a new adult life where established boundaries prevent her from being liberated.

Nature plays an important role in describing the event in the movie. It also contributes to the color pallet of the scene at issue. Contrasting tones and color filters fill in the film with a sort of symbolism and romanticism.

Pre-arranged marriage, therefore, symbolizes the inevitability of events and commitment to determinism. In addition, the beginning of the film is reminiscent much of a fairy-tale retold from one generation to another.

Therefore, the scene looks like the beginning of the legend, a story filled with depth of meaning. The introduced contrasts, on the one hand, enhance the strength and dramatic consequences of the story. On the other hand, the simplicity of colors contributes to the simplicity of the plot.

Visual impact rather than auditory one makes the story even more intense and thoughtful. Moreover, color variations also promote better understanding of the details and shifts in actions.

Despite the transparency of colors and plot, the film still celebrates the eccentric spirit due to the focus on environment, objects, appearances, and face expressions.

The movie of Zhang Yimou also gives tribute to the vitality of the peasant culture in China. Once again, the bright colors at the very beginning add to historical outline of the movie, as well as discover new paths of reproducing the historic events of the 20s and 30s of the past century.

It should also be stressed that the introductory part of the film is mostly depicted in light bright colors and undertones. Specifically, red color here is not only the symbol of love, passion, and aspiration, but also a representation of peasant’s major activities relating to the wine production.

Thus, the flow of events at the beginning reveals the striking imagery and skillfulness of cinematographic devices. Interestingly, the viewers can also feel anxiety while watching the first scene because red color can also be identified with blood, death, and war, which is further represented in the movie.

Connotations of the red color can also be linked to the vividness and depth of representing Chinese culture. Apparent strength of traditions and way of life of humble peasants is captured through color as well.

These images are bold and striking enough and, therefore, the viewers can easily be attracted by the closeness and originality of the Chinese identity. In fact, the scene under consideration manages to render the authenticity of rituals and traditions.

In conclusion, the movie, particularly the starting scenes prove the directors’ intense focus on red color, music and natural landscape. In general, the movie represents the pallet of colors with predominating red.

All these devices of cinematography contribute greatly to the basic of idea of the movie- to render the historical uniqueness of the Chinese culture, as well as present it in the most unconventional way. Most importantly, the heroine is also illustrated as the progressive woman of the time which is free from stereotypes and judgment.

At the same time, she manages to resist the traditions and established norms to become happy and recognized. Her identity is also brightly reflected through color symbolism in the course of the entire movie.

Finally, the natural landscape also plays an important role in depicting unique identity of the Chinese culture and traditions, as well as provides a wider perspective on the significance of symbolism and expression in conveying emotions and feelings.

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1. IvyPanda. "Film Review: Red Sorghum." April 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/film-review-red-sorghum/.


IvyPanda. "Film Review: Red Sorghum." April 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/film-review-red-sorghum/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Film Review: Red Sorghum." April 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/film-review-red-sorghum/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Film Review: Red Sorghum'. 11 April.

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