Release Date: 7 September 1990
Directed by: Zhang YiMou
Ju Dou is a woman bought by Yang Jin Shan, an owner of a cloth-dye business, to be his third wife. She and Yang Tian Qing (Jin Shan’s adoptive son) eventually fall in love and begins an affair which results in their love child Tian Bai. Tian Bai grows up to be a strange child, barely speaking with violent tendencies. At the end, Tian Bai kills his biological father Tian Qing.
I felt that gender discrimination was the key issue in the movie. It was revealed in the movie that Jin Shan had abused his previous two wives to death. Ju Dou also had to undergo that same abuse by him to the point that she wanted to kill herself. Women were shown to be objectified in the film. Jin Shan views all his wives as a means to bear a son for him.
Furthermore, Jin Shan constantly expresses his desire to have a son, not using the word children but “son”. When he offers prayers to the ancestors, the lanterns hanging by the altar also have the words “子孫” meaning sons and grandchildren. This reveals how much the Chinese favour sons who will inherit and carry the family’s name.
The film depicts women as weak and submissive. Even Tian Qing who falls in love with Ju Dou initially lusts for her viewing her as a sexual object. This only stops when Ju Dou intentionally cries whilst showing him her bruises from Jin Shan’s abuse that he starts viewing her as a human being as well.
This movie really left me in an emotional conflicting mess. I was disgusted by the affair that Ju Dou and Tian Qing had started despite the fact that their relationship is that of aunt and nephew-in-law. This disgust grew when I discovered that in the original novel (which the movie is based on), Tian Qing was Jin Shan’s biological son. However, I was moved by their love for one another which never wavered no matter the multitude of problems they faced. At the same time, watching the two of them sneaking around was nerve-wrecking. Overall, it was a great movie, Zhang YiMou really knows how to direct a good film.