Zhang Yimou’s ode to life, Red Sorghum (1987), is one of the fascinating stories which acquired world recognition. Yimou managed to create a great cinematographic ‘painting’ where light, shadow, and color tessellate into a majestic mosaic. Frame 3a is a great illustration of the picturesque world created by Yimou. This frame shows the way color and light may tell a story of life.
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The director employs a number of tools to tell his story. For example, he makes use of aerial perspective in the frame in question. This tool helps the director to create a very specific atmosphere. The protagonist is central to the scene as well as to the entire story. Aerial perspective poses the necessary focus on the protagonist. The main character, Jiu’er, addresses the distiller workers to inspire them to continue working. The perspective used helps the director to show the way the workers look at Jiu’er. She becomes the center of the universe for them for a certain period of time.
Yimou was fascinated by light, and he claimed that western painting was a great example of this art form as it was full of light (Zhen 48). Thus, the frame is also full of light. Notably, the director also uses a close-up to focus on the protagonist and her inflaming speech.
This frame is made up of light as Jiu’er’s face is enlightened by natural light as well as by her inspiring speech. It is also important to note that a straight angle is used to focus on the protagonist and to show that she is talking with her workers, and they are all equal. The director also uses frontal lighting to make it clear who the most important character in the scene is. There is no obscurity, and this adds to the creation of an atmosphere of trust and cordial warmth.
It is important to note that color also contributes greatly to the creation of the meaning in the frame. The director was fascinated by western painting due to its colorfulness (Zhang 308). The frame is also colorful. Pink, white, and red dominate in this frame. Yimou often employed contrast in his works (Rayns 14). This contrast is revealed in the frame as the white is contrasted to the red. The protagonist is literally lit with natural light, but red is seen in the background.
This color plays a central role. Red is one of the major colors of the film, and it is a symbol of liquor, passion, blood, life, and death. Notably, the director is famous for the density of his films as they are full of color (Zhang 308).
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that frame 3a is exemplary in terms of Yimou’s unique style and his techniques. The use of light, shadow, and color helps the director to tell his ode to life. The director manages to create a colorful world where light and color are essential. These tools intensify the cast’s performance. It is also remarkable that light and color (as well as shadow) are an integral part of the story. It is simply impossible to imagine the story of Jiu’er without the colorful and sometimes obscure settings. These tools also create a symbolic world where light stands for inspiration and desire to live, shadow stands for sadness, red stands for passion, blood, and death.
Rayns, Tony. “The New Chinese Cinema: An Introduction.” King of the Children and the New Chinese Cinema. Ed. Tony Rayns. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1989. 1-15. Print.
Zhang, Xudong. Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms. London: Duke University Press, 1997. Print.
Zhen, Ni. Memoirs from the Beijing Film Academy. London: Duke University Press, 2002. Print.