That Is Just How It Is

“… Chinese revolutionary rhetoric has often used bodily injury to invoke a sense of reality. Violence signals the place where where history hurts, and engaging in violence is tantamount to making history. In the restaurant scene, however, the bodily injury does not materialize.”

–Yomi Braester, “Memory at a Standstill: From Maohistory to Hooligan History”, 196.

The creation and presentation of violence in historical film is not the sole provence of Chinese Revolutionary cinema. Most violent action movies try to impart a sense of realism through physical sympathy – when someone is being physically brutalized, the viewer usually draws away slightly, instinctually repulsed. To use this to a films advantage is no new trick. However, I think that violence as it relates to the Cultural Revolution is complex. As Mary Ann said, no two people in China had the same experience of the Cultual Revolution. It  was a surreal experience for many, and one with many painful and confused memories attached to it. As such, I find the  breakdown of violence to manipulate the emotions of the audience in “In The Heat of the Sun” a fitting spin on the presentation of the Cultural Revolution. No one seems entirely sure what happened – it almost seems as if all of China went mad, only to wake up in a disillusioned daze a year or so after. The truth is more complex, of course, but nonetheless one that is just as hard to understand. For such a violent time, violence is a necessary method of portrayal. And yet, the chaos and instability of the time cannot be represented simply through violence. It is an ironic twist that turns such a standard presentation of Chinese revolutionary film into a comment on the period itself.

My question is, how do most people process the violence of the Cultural revolution? In the documentary we watched, most people seemed shocked and horrified witnesses. These was an unspoken understanding, often, that only so much could be talked about. “That’s the way it is.” Is idealism of this time common?

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One Response to “That Is Just How It Is”

  1. pkramer Says:

    I think that you and I had the same ideas while reading this piece. I think that its interesting to see how the Chinese rely on violence over diplomacy in order to strengthen its own nation. And I would say that most people did process the violence in the cultural revolution just based on the fact that the violence was everywhere around them. Thanks to Mao’s coaxing and a lack of support to stop by the government, I would think people did not have much of a chance to ignore the chaos around them.

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