Imagery and Sound in Red Sorghum

  • Yvonne Ng


WHEN ZHANG YIMOU MADE HIS DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, Red Sorghum, in 1987, he was better known as a cinematographer whose talent had been crucial to the success of critically acclaimed films like Zhang Junzhao's One and Eight (1984, released 1987) and Chen Kaige's Yellow Earth (1984). Not only did Red Sorghum become a seminal film of the Fifth Generation, it also won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 1988, becoming the first mainland Chinese film ever to be awarded the highest honour at a major international film competition. Set in the 1920s and '30s in northern China, Red Sorghum's narrative centres on the fate of a young woman who is forced to marry a rich old leper but who eventually falls in love with a younger man. The motif of female oppression in feudal China is repeated in Zhang's next two films, Ju Dou (1990) and Raise the Red Lantern...