This week we watched King Hu’s Sons of Good Earth and as the first East Asian film that I’ve watched in awhile, it reminded me how different Asian storytelling is from Western (Or should I say, Hollywood) storytelling. One element in particular I noticed was that the overall pacing of the film felt natural, given that events were unfolding over years. Time was taken to show the development of relationships, especially for the main characters, Yu Rui and He Hua. When at first we can see that He Hua is clearly uncomfortable with Yu Rui and his friend as she is very hesitant to go with them, the audience is eventually shown a scene where she’s hesitant to part with Yu Rui even when the times get very difficult during the Japanese occupation. This pacing left an impression on me because some of the movies I’ve watched consisted of the entire two hours of the film occurring within a single night, leaving me with a very jarring feeling since the development of the plot felt too rushed or too convenient to conclude so quickly.
Alongside pacing, I liked how the acting really developed the characters, which helped my understanding how they were feeling since I had difficulty interpreting their intonations in their Chinese dialogue. There is one scene in particular that I liked a lot in Sons of Good Earth that I felt illustrated He Hua’s character well. It’s the scene soon after He Hua makes a deal with the General in order to release Yu Rui. Now, the audience has already seen her ready to jump out of a window to escape prostitution in the beginning of the film, but here we see her as technically a free woman. She didn’t have to make a sacrifice for Yu Rui. As the audience watches her follow the General with a deadened expression we can really feel that she’s practically sold her soul for her husband. After she sees Yu Rui walking free in the streets below the restaurant, we can see that she understands that she cannot join him. I don’t remember exactly when she does it, but I distinctly remember her readily accepting a drink (when earlier she could hardly bring herself to lift her glass) and then chugging it down to brace herself before she attempts to fling herself off the balcony. In comparison to the previous lady who became the General’s mistress who broke mentally, He Hua refuses in serving him after seeing that her husband is actually free. She would rather die than submit to the General, is how I took it. Although she’s not firing a gun, I considered it showing how strong willed He Hua is.