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WHEAT (China)


Genre: Drama
Starring: Huang Jue, Fan Bing Bing, Du Jiayi, Wang Xueqi, Wang Zhiwen, Wang Ji
Director: He Ping
Rating: PG
Year Made: 2009






Languages: Mandarin
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: InnoF
orm Media




In the Kingdom of Zhao, all the men have left for war and Lady Li, wife of the absent lord says victory will soon bring their men back home. When two enemy deserters invade the kingdom, they poretend to be Zhao soldiers and improvise a tale for Lady Li describing Zhao's victory. Word of the supposed victory spreads rapidly throughout the town causing misplaced optimism among the women until the truth is revealed and despair and horror emerge. Set during the Warring States period, the film is divided into five sections which corresponds to the Chinese system of elements: metal (aka gold), wood, water, fire and earth.


We do not usually associate war with pretty images. Blood, decapitation, loss, grim and dread are the words that come to mind when the word “war” is mentioned. War movies also do not bring pretty images with them. Think Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and The Thin Red Line – no bright and vibrant colours to cheer you up, right? There’s a war going out there after all, and why would anyone link the unhappy event with lush and thriving colours?

Well, the Mainland Chinese would, apparently.

Six years after making the poetic Warriors of Heaven and Earth, He Ping writes and directs this drama which tells (very aptly described on the DVD cover here) a story involving three years of war, two soldiers on the run and one long hard look at the absurdities of life.

Set during the Warring States period, all men from the Zhao Kingdom have gone to fight for their state. The regal Lady Li believes that the men will return victorious. When two enemies infiltrate into the Zhao Kingdom and pretends to be locals, they spread tales of Zhao’s triumphant moments at the war front, and hope can be felt throughout the kingdom. When the truth is revealed, things fall apart in ways unimaginable.

Those looking for action packed battle scenes will be disappointed, because adrenaline powered war scenes are sorely lacking here. This is actually not very surprising, because judging from the DVD cover, you should be expecting an artistic impression of the war more than anything else. The cinematography by Zhao Xiaoshi is top notch, showcasing the titular gorgeous golden wheat fields – they look too dazzling to be true. That’s probably a grudge we urbanites have to live with.

As for the story, the casual viewer may easily lose himself in the almost surrealistic storytelling approach. The lyrical method of telling the story in five sections according to the Chinese system of elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth) is appreciated to a certain extent. The existentialist mood throughout the film’s 104 minutes may be overbearing at times, but there is nothing an engaging cast cannot save. Thankfully, director He has this in place here.

Huang Jue and Du Jiayi are as hilarious as they are heartrending in their portrayals of the two enemy deserters. The spot on chemistry between the two men is the highlight of the film. Then there is the luminous Fan Bingbing who lights up every scene she is in, complementing the already fine looking cinematography. Supporting roles played by established Chinese actors Wang Xueqi and Wang Zhiwen add weight to the casting.

This film is no doubt a visual treat, but to appreciate its finer aspects would require some efforts from its viewers.




The visual transfer of the movie is fine, and it is presented in its original Mandarin audio track.



Review by John Li

Posted on 21 September 2010


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This review is made possible with the kind support from InnoForm Media


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