Set deep within an isolated Chinese mountain village 1984 is Mountain Cry by Larry Yang. A humanistic drama with elements of both comedy and tragedy. It’s a little hard to follow initially and some of the motives and reasoning aren’t concrete but within the tale is a nugget of raw emotion. A story of a tragic figure whom with the help of a young man struggling to find his own place in the world ends up finding her voice and freedom.
Yueting Lang plays Hang Xia, a mute woman stuck in an abusive relationship with husband La Hong (Ailei Yu). The film opens with her cradling there infant when suddenly La Hong comes home and violently rapes his wife. This isn’t easy viewing. Meanwhile Han Chong a young adult male has set a badger trap far down from the village with dynamite. Tragedy strikes when the sound of the blast pierces the silent mountain, followed by screams of agony coming from La Hong. Hours later, despite the entire village intervention La Hong passes leaving behind his baby and daughter with Hang Xia. This event causes two things to happen, a happy liberation for Hang Xia and a shady covering up of events by the small bureaucratic leadership of the village. These two reactions converge dangerously for Hang Xia as the small village whose initial empathetic attitude shifts quickly to consternation and alienation.
The village elders work quickly to hush over the event with compensation and decide that Han Chong, guilty of setting the trap must provide for Xia and her children for the indefinite future or until Xia decides on a monetary figure. Xia struggling to contain her joy and present a mask of external grief refuses any sum which begins the schism between the village and herself. Han Chong played by Ziyi Wang has an affable film presence even while playing petulant irresponsible youth. The connection between Hang Xia and Han Chong begins tenderly and warmly. Together they mend the emotional cracks within each other.
While the acting is superb and the location breathtaking there are various discrepancies with the script and story. Immediately following the rape and death at the beginning, the tone of the film becomes humorous with comedic quips stemming from the villagers. It’s bad timing and gives the movie a weird aura. The logic too many of the pivotal key events doesn’t quite add up either. The villagers not immediately reporting the death comes at fairly flimsy reasoning and the subsequent mob mentality that follows doesn’t hold much stock either. Director Larry Yang relies too heavily on the use of flashbacks to justify the attitudes of his characters. Very late into their relationship it is discovered that Hang Xia and Han Chong’s lives had intersected prior to their arrangement.
For the most part the film is directionless and slow moving. It isn’t until the final flashbacks of Hang Xia’s life and the villages grab the pitchfork moment is any sense of urgency attached to the characters plight. The romance between Han Chong and Hang Xia is touching and genuine but there’s nothing overly exceptional to their story. The twist at the end of the film is met with more of a shrug than a jaw drop. The culture differences perhaps do not translate as well to western audiences, the themes aren’t entirely universal. The film does regains some of its momentum with a moving conclusion, the emotional culmination of ecstasy and revelation for Hang Xia.
Mountain Cry is in Australian cinemas from 8 September through Roadshow Films.