《暖》dir. by Huo Jianqi:霍建启, released in 2003, based on a novella by Nobel laureate Mo Yan

The story takes place against the backdrop of China’s economic transformation (经济转型 zhuǎn xíng) from an agricultural society (农业社会) to an industrial civilization (工业文明). The characters in the film are caught in the greatest migration and urbanization (城镇化,chéng zhèn huà) in human history.

The story lends expression to a nostalgia (恋旧) on the part of the urbanites. The relationship and complicated emotions between the lovers are therefore that between an agrarian culture and industrial civilization, between what is viewed as modern and what is perceived as primitive. They are the cause and effect of one another, Nuan being Jinghe’s roots and origins, and Jinghe Nuan’s dream and future. They represent (代表, dài biǎo) two sides of the same historical development.

The story is mediated through the aesthetics of primitivism (原始主义), modern man’s longing for a return to his primitive past that perhaps never was: authentic, pristine, simple, egalitarian and free of greed, represented by the deaf-mute. Martial artist and Jinghe represent the bourgeois values of individual success (个人成功 chéng gōng)、personal enjoyment and eroticism (个人享受, xiǎng shòu), money and fame (金钱, 名利), which explains Nuan’s abandonment and final decision to find happiness with deaf-mute. The latter represent the feudal values of self-sacrifice and altruism (自我牺牲, xī shēng), kindness and compassion (同情, 爱心).

The lovers connect by a mutual complementarity, and the three of them represent the human whole that is lost when man arrives at his modern stage fragments of his primitive self (分裂, fēn liè). They can find their missing pieces in the other. The past, the social change and economic transformation over the past 40 years, connects all three. Some make it in the city like Jinghe, others stay behind in rural China like Nuan and deaf-mute.