Language: Mandarin Subtitle: Chinese and English
Jin Ye’s Today My Mother Will Get Married is a Chinese independent fiction following a young boy called Cao Zi who lives with his mother in small rural town in Manchuria. One day, he finds out that his mother is due to marry the rich local businessman Zhu Laosan, and decides to buy her a necklace to prove that he loves her more. Not having any money himself, Cao Zi teams with his friends Jiu Yi and Brother Hou for a scheme to steal goods from Zhu Laosan’s factory and sell them back to him, a plan which sadly fails. After more aborted attempts to raise the necessary funds, including the theft of a French horn and an attack on a taxi driver, Cao Zi joins forces with Zhu Laosan’s daughter Zhu Xia to try and stop the wedding, though their efforts soon land them in even more trouble.
Today My Mother Will Get Married is Jin Ye’s first feature, and while perhaps raw and rough in places, it’s a highly impressive accomplishment and is exactly the kind of indie cinema that Chinese filmmakers should be making more of. Though shot in only sixteen days, Jin edited the film for two years, and it’s obvious that a great deal of craftsmanship and thought went into its making, as it’s a tightly structured and edited work which succeeds both artistically and in narrative terms. Visually, it’s bleakly stunning throughout, a mixture of carefully constructed long shots and vérité camerawork making evocative use of the wintry local scenery and the ramshackle buildings of the town.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given his background, the film has a naturalistic and down to earth feel, which works well to underline its gritty setting and to turn what could have been a fairly generic tale of wayward youth into something deeper and more affecting. Tough and occasionally violent, and featuring several suspenseful twists and turns, the film is also a great piece of storytelling, and thanks in part to some great and wholly believable performances from its young cast, is gripping throughout. Despite his many misdeeds and destructive behaviour, Cao Zi is a sympathetic protagonist, and it’s hard not to root for him as he and his friends go about their misguided schemes, even though a happy ending never really seems to be on the cards.
Where the film particularly impresses is in the way it combines its strong narrative and characters with social concerns, making it searching as well as dramatic and tense, Jia asking tough questions about modern Chinese and the fate of the new generation. Though the film is unmistakably culturally Chinese and has a very strong sense of place, Jin shows a great understanding of cinema and of what makes films work, and the story is one which viewers from anywhere should be able to recognise and relate to. Its arguably this which really lifts Today My Mother Will Get Married and sets it aside from many other Chinese indies, as though artistic and worthy, it’s also on a more basic (though no less important) level very entertaining and enjoyable.
text by James Mudge
Today My Mother will Get Married is my first feature film. The moving shot and the long shot are two of my favorite forms, to my understanding, they are the core of what makes a film, and I have used them in my film as well.
I shot the film in sixteen days, and edited it for two years.
The entire process was a ritual for me--serious and sacred. When I raise my head to pay tribute to the Film-God, and then look at The Necklace I made, I appreciate it and adore it. I remember in the last scene, when the dark night’s wind cut through my bones and froze up my entire body, only my heart was beating, I thought, what if my heart freezes up as well?
At last, in the small forest town of Manchuria, I finished this ritual, and I walked towards Film from here.
Today My Mother will Get Married is a bit depressing, a bit raw, it is filled with white noise, and it comes off more like a documentary. This is the ambiance I wanted.
About the Director
Jin Ye has spent much of his career making documentaries for the United Nations, for China’s leaders, for CCTV, and for himself. These documentaries include Travelling West at the Turn of the Year, The Master and the Art, and Sustainable Development in China, all of which were made in this context. Jin has used the rest of his time producing and planning his own films People by the Yellow River, Women’s Prison No.4, and Born after the 1980s. In the last dozen years, he has made some thirty films, as well as six hundred or so episodes of television series and documentaries. As Jin states: “there have been cases when the scripts and stories I liked became terrible films. I was upset, so I went to the Beijing Film Academy to learn how to be a director and direct films myself”.