Ripples of Life
Ripples of Life is director Wei Shujun’s third Cannes showing: his first film Striding into the Wind was included in last year’s selection and his short On the Border received a special mention in 2018.
Weaving through this intriguing piece is a My Dinner with Andre-style discussion and philosophising about film, art, music and life – alternating between warm conversations, adversarial arguments and drunken revelations. A crew has arrived for a location shoot in a rural Yong’an village and are making a romantic movie about the contradictions between the beauty, serenity and comfort of small-town life versus its inertia, monotony and frustration – however the director, screenwriter and producer are unable to agree on the script and the storyline.
Encompassing the perpetual debate, the narrative contains three parts. First is the upheaval to the town caused by the newly arrived production team, along with the intimate world of a young restaurateur who caters to the crew. Though not unhappy, she is bored and overwhelmed by motherhood, but the filmmakers’ interest in including her in their picture sparks her fantasies.
Changing lanes to the following part of the story: the arrival of the movie’s star. The young woman returns to her hometown and yearns for solace and friendships, but instead encounters alienation, coldness, unwanted fanfare and an interest in her that is only utilitarian. She is a gentle, lonely soul who seeks love and communication, but her celebrity status isolates her. Part three involves an intensification of the indecision and conflict between the director and the screenwriter with inspired dialogue and disclosures.
Themes of separation and disconnection are echoed in the superb visuals via artistic framing and point-of-view shots set up with the spectator peeking in through windows or watching from a distance. Post-production editing such as blurring in various scenes implies a barrier between clarity or comprehension. Divisions in the graphics are reflected by those between the two conflicting characters. The concepts of objectivity in art, rural and city living and fame in the “fast lane” are conveyed in contrast to ordinary lives and the decision between marriage and family or personal ambitions. The theme from Evita as the finale credit song is curiously appropriate and beautiful – especially when considering the lyrics.
The picture presents an interesting, engaging and intimate view of life in China, with the contrast of classic elements such as Chinese Opera and home-grown Rap. Ripples of Life is well written, directed and acted, with enlightening and thought-provoking dialogue.
Ripples of Life does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.