During the Tangshan Earthquake in 1976, Li Yuanni returns home to find that she can only save either one of her 7 year old twins buried under debris. Forced to make the most difficult decision of her life, she finally chooses Fang Da the male twin, without knowing that her daughter Fang Deng overheard the decision and is devastated. Miraculously, Fang Deng survived without her family's knowledge. When she returns as a volunteer in the Sichuan Earthquake 32 years later, she withnesses the sufferings of the people during a natural disaster and it finally helps her to overcome her own trauma and reunite with her family. A human drama about finding forgiveness. "Aftershock"depicts not only the fatal tragedies that is brought on by natural disasters but also the strength and courage one demonstrates in the face of extreme and devastating situations.
The DVD cover of this proudly proclaims “A touching quality film which has broken China’s highest box office records”. Rightly so, considering how the Mainland Chinese will embrace a film like this. Based on a historical event? Check. A high budget production with a fair amount of special effects and grand setups? Check. A cast which includes China’s finest actors? Check. A melodramatic plot made to milk some tears from the emotional viewers? Check.
The disaster flick is a drama which depicts the aftermath of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. A mother realises that she can only save one of her children during the earthquake and lives with the guilt which follows. As fate would have it, the daughter she abandons survives and goes on to be adopted by another couple. She grows up and eventually becomes reunited with her family after a twist and turn of events. Oh, and after lots of tears shed by lots of people too.
Director Feng Xiaogang knows what brings in the money and the acclaim. His objective to move people to tears has been met with his latest production – and he does it with an almost shameless approach. But who are we to crticise this method of telling a touching story? The plot development in this 135 minute movie isn’t what you call exciting, but the very capable cast saves the predictable story. Xu Fan, Zhang Jingchu, Li Chen and Chen Daoming deliver engaging performances without making you feel detached from their characters’ emotions. Xu (Feng’s wife in real life) plays the dedicated mother, Zhang plays the strong headed daughter, Li plays the son whom the mother rescues and Chen plays the adoptive father. Each commands his or her own screen presence – who doesn’t love a larger than life character going through very heartfelt sentiments?
Feng also knows what’s needed to ensure the success at the box office. Produced by HuaYi Bros, which partnered with IMAX to project this drama on the very large screen, one can only imagine the magnificence of the film on the very large canvas. The capital thrown into the movie has paid off, because other than surpassing The Founding of the Republic as the highest grossing locally made move in China, it has also been selected as the Chinese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Oscars. Will Asians make it big at the Academy Awards again?
Ultimately, the universal theme of family love and reconciliation is what makes this film work, especially in an Asian culture. By cleverly connecting the Tangshan earthquake in 1976 and the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, the filmmakers have tugged the heartstrings for anyone who cares about the effects of natural disasters. When the movie concludes with an old man looking at a stone carved with the names of all 240,000 victims of the disaster, you’d feel moved as well, with Faye Wong’s ethereal vocals singing in the background.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The Code 3 DVD contains a 37 minute segment of Interviews, where the cast and crew talk about the making of the film. Although they are just sound bites, they prove to be insightful to the theme of the movie – too bad there are no English subtitles available for this. There are also two Theatrical Trailers in the Bonus Features section.
The visual transfer of the movie is pristine enough, and is presented in its original Mandarin audio track.
by John Li
Posted on 16 October 2010