"Stories of Yong'an Town": Chekhovian Tragedy

    Note: This article contains spoilers

    As a talented and maverick young director, Wei Shujun's works are both unconventional and unconventional, such as "Wild Horse Parting the Mane" which has been released and "The Story of Yong'an Town" which is currently in theaters. A relaxed and comfortable way to present some landscapes that we rarely see on domestic big screens. But he is not deliberately unconventional, or like some young literary and artistic creators who are keen to soar in the sky and regard ambiguity as profound. His movies often have very down-to-earth realistic depictions, and his observation of life is more than Some so-called great directors are sincere and profound.

    For example, "Stories of Yong'an Town" captures the essence of small town life in China's third- and fourth-tier cities.

    "Story Collection of Yong'an Town" Poster

    Yong'an Town is the place where the story takes place and the spiritual core of the story. However, the movie is not just a small town story. From the slogan "too funny to be an art film", we can see that it is difficult to promote the movie, because the movie is not like 99% of the movies we usually see on the big screen, from beginning to end. Telling only a complete story is like reading a long novel. You can use one paragraph to summarize the plot and extract some keywords that are easy for others to understand.

    "Story Collection of Yong'an Town" is more like a collection of short stories. The collection contains three different short stories. They can be completely independent and can score high marks when picked out alone. There are even very big differences between them, such as the previous one. The two short stories are more unified in style, telling the story of a woman who can't get out and a woman who can't come back in a small town, but the third short story suddenly becomes a mockery and self-deprecation about the film industry, "It's funny. "It doesn't look like an art film" is more like the description of the third story.

    Yong'an Town connects them. The three stories all take place in Yong'an Town, and the stories are also connected to each other through the form of "meta-movie". At the beginning of the movie, a group of filmmakers went to a southern town called Yong'an Town to shoot a movie called "Yong'an Town Stories". The first story, "Waiting Alone", tells how the arrival of the crew made a small town woman The second story "Looking Beautiful" tells the story of a big star who walked out of a small town and came back to film "Story Collection of Yong'an Town", only to find that she can never return to her "hometown"; The three stories "Pluto Moment" are a series of games and pulls between the screenwriter and director around the script of "Yong'an Town Stories".

    From a superficial logic point of view, the connection between the three stories is not very close. But in terms of deep logic, they seem to have very different shapes, but they share a similar spiritual temperament. To use a phrase repeatedly mentioned by the screenwriter in the movie (played by Kang Chunlei, the screenwriter of this film), "In Yong'an Town, nothing will happen." Life is like a pool of stagnant water. Occasionally there will be ripples of expectation, but in the end nothing will happen. The screenwriter himself further sublimated it, calling it a "Chekhovian tragedy."

    “Nothing will happen in Yong’an Town”

    It can be said that "Stories from Yong'an Town" is a "Collection of Chekhov's Short Stories" in the form of a movie.

    Wei Shujun is always sharp enough and grounded enough. As someone who happens to have a very rich experience of living in a southern town, I personally think that Wei Shujun has captured the "stagnation" of small town life very well. Life is cumbersome, slow, and close to stasis. People who are a little "restless" (for example, they still yearn for and pursue the outside world) may feel trapped and frustrated mentally if they live in it for a long time. Of course, if you get rid of this "restlessness" early on, then life in a small town will be comfortable and leisurely, and you can stay calm and undisturbed.

    As a small-town mother who is breastfeeding, Xiao Gu (played by Huang Miyi) has already restrained her "restlessness". Although she still loves being beautiful, she is more or less willing to accept the quiet life of a small town. life.

    Small town mother Xiao Gu (played by Huang Miyi)

    The arrival of the crew broke everything, especially when she accidentally became the "model" of the movie - before the big star came, she helped the big star try on the clothes to see if they fit the style of the movie. She enjoyed a brief "stars over the moon" ": The crew members praised her generously. She stood under the spotlight for filming, and the crew members called her "teacher"... All of this may have given her the illusion that she had a chance to make a movie, and she could also leave. go out.

    Xiao Gu, who was trying on clothes for a big star, had a smile on his face

    Throwing stones into the stagnant water created a slight ripple, and Xiao Gu's "restlessness" was awakened. This should be the moment when countless happiness bubbled up in her heart. But she was quickly brought back to her original form. When the big star came to the small town, Xiao Gu returned to her identity as the "restaurant proprietress". All the eyes that once focused on her disappeared. She became one of the ordinary women in the small town - such as a woman who came to join in the fun and was dismissed by the crew. Push away people. She slapped the fish hard and killed it, including her own unrealistic "restlessness".

    There are many people in this small town who are unable and unable to leave. When they stop being "restless", they will gradually become a "stagnant" part of the town, and even become a stubborn and rigid part. I have no right to criticize harshly, because there has been no "living water" flowing in.

    For the big star Chen Chen (played by Yang Zishan) who went out and came back again, coming back this time is a "honorable return to her hometown", but she knows that coming back this time is a self-salvation for her personal career difficulties. She had terminated her contract with the company for a year and had not filmed for a long time. She wanted to seize this script. Returning to her hometown also has a sense of rediscovering herself. She misses her life here as a teenager. Through the filter of nostalgia, the life in the small town is carefree and uncontested, which is just enough to make her career temporarily frustrated. Come and "purify" your noisy heart.

    Big star Chen Chen (played by Yang Zishan)

    She soon discovered that her hometown had changed. Not only the hardware in my hometown has changed a lot, but also the people here seem to have changed. They are so worldly, utilitarian, narrow-minded, short-sighted, and like dogs and flies... Although Chen Chen didn't use these words, she was "deceived" by various platforms half-heartedly. When she encountered a bad wine table culture at the dinner table , when she tried to have sex with her former girlfriend who was a waiter in the hotel, she only received a cold response, and when she went to Zhuma's house for dinner, she was "sneered at"... She drew an eye on the wet car window. Weeping eyes.

    Facing Chen Chen's escape, Zhu Ma angrily asked

    The second story "Looking Beautiful" and "Waiting Alone" constitute two sides of small town life. On the one hand, small town life is "stagnant", with no new opportunities and hopes coming, but on the other hand, small town life is always in the process of "change". This change is a very cruel "corruption", like The originally beautiful and clear pond had been trapped for a long time and began to slowly deteriorate. The water became dirty and smelled constantly.

    When homecoming narratives were popular a few years ago, "Hometown is Falling" was hotly discussed. This is not the sad spring and autumn of literary and artistic youth. As someone who has escaped from a small town, what I feel about small town life is not the kind of "nostalgia" wearing a filter, but the sadness and sadness of "the decline of my hometown." The small town life in my boyhood was very beautiful, but it was mostly because it was an era of poverty and the small town remained in a quaint rural society, which gave it a peaceful beauty. The small town should become rich, but now there is only material wealth without conceptual and spiritual innovation. The negative side of rural society has been fully stimulated, and the small town lacks the contractual spirit of the city (although this is the case in the city) This spirit is sometimes very thin), and today's small towns often allow us to see the worst side of the relationship society.

    As soon as Chen Chen came back, her relatives asked her for help

    Chen Chen should be glad that she escaped. Although she may have fallen into a different predicament, she at least had a choice. The "stagnation" of small town life is that even if you don't like this kind of life, it is not easy to get rid of it.

    In the third story, "The Pluto Hour," the film shifts from a small-town story to the film's industry narrative. Culture can form divisions, so the story of this film industry is also a narrative about big cities. In this part, director Wei Shujun and screenwriter Kang Chunlei made full-scale complaints about the industry. Directors, screenwriters, producers, and film critics were all caught up in one fell swoop.

    Screenwriter Chunlei (played by Kang Chunlei)

    The industry story is also about dilemma, and it is also a "Chekhovian tragedy". The most painful thing is for the screenwriter (although the director is also painful). As a creator, he has to accept interference from various external forces. This kind of interference is often the same as destruction, which is the destruction of his creative subjectivity and creative freedom. The screenplay he had been working on for several years was transformed beyond recognition, was thrown on the ground, wet with dog urine, and then made into a movie the next day.

    The movie within the movie starts as usual

    At this time, when we look back at the sentence "In Yong'an Town, nothing will happen", we can still find a clear difference. For the foreign star Chen Chen and the crew, although they all have their own predicaments, they all have the choice to escape Yong'an Town. Just like how bad the movie script is, and how fiercely the director and screenwriter quarrel, but Maradona dies The movie started shooting the next day and the sun rose as usual. After more than a month, they could leave Yong'an Town forever. Only those who are "stuck" in the town will be "stuck" here for a long time.

    Although everyone may face an existential dilemma, some people at least have the option to escape, and some people do not. They have to get used to the dilemma and internalize it until it becomes part of the dilemma that they originally opposed. This is Chekhovian tragedy at its most impotent.


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