Interview with Li Ruijun: We Are Fundamentally Becoming a Different Kind of Society

Li Ruijun’s drama “Return to Mud” was one of many 4 Asian movies that screened in the primary competitors of the Berlinale, alongside Hong Sang-soo’s “The Novelist’s Movie”, Kamila Andini’s interval tear-jerker “Nana” and Rithy Panh’s animated documentary “Every thing Will Be Okay”. The native of Gaotai turns his gaze but once more to his beloved rural area to depict the lives of two individuals who discover love and hope in an organized marriage by way of their households, as two outcasts nobody needed to have on their backs anymore. The movie exhibits them ranging from anew a few occasions as a result of ruthless video games of the official landowners and builders with the peasants, however as a substitute of bowing their heads low, they handle to search out consolation in one another’s firm and of their deep connection to the land they’re working.

That is Li’s sixth reside motion film, and the fourth A-list pageant he’s competing at. With “Strolling Previous the Future” (2017) he was within the Un Sure Regard competiton of Cannes Movie Competition, “River Street” (2014) was each in Tokyo and in Berlinale Technology, and “Fly With The Crane” was competing in Venice in 2012.

Li Ruijun wasn’t capable of come to the Berlinale, however we spoke to him by way of zoom proper at first of the pageant.

It’s fairly fascinating to dive into the world of rural China unknown to us which is on the identical time your house. I want to ask you about your connection to Gaotai and individuals who inhabit this space.

As a result of I used to be born on this land and I grew up right here, my understanding of life comes instantly from this land. It doesn’t solely nurture lives, it additionally nurtures my non secular world. My grandpa and my mom have been farmers of this land and since I used to be a baby, I labored on the farm. I used to be working with the soil. On this approach, the land formed my understanding of the world, it influenced how I perceive love and compassion. I even have a unique perspective in regards to the meals we’re consuming, in regards to the folks we’re surrounded by and cope with sure issues in life.

You wrote a beautiful, touching love story involving two outcasts from the neighborhood. Might you elaborate a bit in regards to the sense of alienation you created?

To my understanding, that is extra in regards to the evolution of our world and our society, as a result of each nation and each society is getting developed and shifting ahead. On this course of, lot of occasions and particularly within the rural areas, there’s a development of urbanisation. This was intensified in our fashionable occasions of quick info, and associated to it – the urge to maneuver issues very quick. It feels just like the second evolution of mankind. For villages, this course of brings large adjustments. Plenty of folks from the agricultural communities wish to transfer ahead, and so they wish to take their specific prepare to the long run. However different folks don’t get on that prepare, or they missed it, equally to the characters in my movie. They selected to maneuver ahead by using the bicycle. On this entire course of of recent revolution, some folks stick with the previous methods of humankind, inherited from the custom of previous farming tradition. The primary characters of the movie are the mirror of that and so they characterize the normal lifestyle. They stand in robust distinction to the trendy life-style. In that approach, I don’t suppose that the movie is about them as a pair, it’s in regards to the passing of time and in regards to the finish of an period. We’re essentially changing into a unique sort of society.

Regardless of of the very darkish side of the story, the colors are very tender, embracing.

In “Return to Mud” I selected to make use of mounted, medium frames and to point out plenty of landscapes, and never so many shut ups. My characters are deserted by their members of the family however they’re accepted and embraced by the land they domesticate, and they’re additionally embraced by one another. They don’t solely construct a connection to one another, they connect with the atmosphere and so they develop into one with the soil. I needed to make use of the pure gentle and colors to current their life, particularly as a result of the movie is in regards to the change of seasons and the passing of time. I consider that every one of us are simply passers-by. I needed to place the land in focus to current the story, which is why there may be plenty of bigger landscapes on the display screen. There may be plenty of considering invested behind my digicam work as a result of I discovered it vital to current the true lifetime of farmers and provides it the sensation of authenticity. When it comes to the colors within the movie, I discover that regardless of of all of the hardships the 2 characters are confronted with, they discovered deep love which livens every little thing up. Their ardour for all times bought robust, so I believe that the digicam each by way of colors and the visuals accentuates this.

I additionally needed to current the story in a extra goal method, additionally by way of the framing of the movie which seems like photographing each day life. It’s much less of a cinematic fashion and extra of a true-to-life visible fashion. That’s what I used to be considering within the making course of.

One among your lead actors is an novice and an inhabitant of that space who acted in your earlier movies (Wu Renlin) and the opposite is among the most liked Chinese language actresses Hai Qing. How was it working with two actors of uneven experiences and professions?

They each ship beautiful and emotional performances, and emotional efficiency could be very difficult. I’m not saying that it’s not simpler for professionals, it’s the nature of the roles I’m refering to. I’ve recognized Hai Qing for a really very long time. Once I was writing the script, I assumed she could be the proper selection for the position, so I gave her the script to learn it. She liked it and she or he determined to dedicate one 12 months to this movie. Together with her on board, I used to be considering of getting an expert actor for the position of Ma as effectively, however after plenty of scouting, I noticed that nobody had a full 12 months to put money into my venture. As well as, plenty of skilled actors don’t have any expertise with arduous labour, and this position requires it. So, that additionally wouldn’t have labored effectively. For instance, even a median viewer is able to recognizing if an individual slicing greens is an expert chef or not. Sure issues are crucial for the characterisation, so I made a decision to make use of an novice actor and that occurs to be somebody I labored with earlier than. Wu Renlin really lives within the village and he’s very acquainted with arduous work. The one factor he wanted to be taught was to form the character. The character I selected for him was very completely different from his earlier position. This time he needed to play the lead, and I wanted to be sure that he’ll be capable of carry that position on his shoulders. And utterly reverse to that, I needed to make Hai Qing neglect the performing methods she realized on the academy. She needed to return to the pure life fashion beginnings. So, this turned a extremely fascinating mash.

Let’s not neglect the donkey, please! He’s the third most vital character within the film.

Sure, you might be proper. That Donkey is essential to the farmer, not simply as a device of manufacturing, the animal can be his vital property. In Chinese language villages, donkeys price some huge cash and so they create plenty of worth. They’re additionally crucial for the transportation, and normally for a lot of issues. Ma’s attitute is a bit completely different, as he sees his animal as a giant assist in life. It’s, so to talk, part of his household. I personally consider that donkeys have many good qualities, corresponding to persistance, committment, they contribute to work, and that’s why one among them carries the third most vital position within the movie.

You aren’t simply the author and director, you took the job of the editor and artwork director in “Return to Mud”. Aside from having to cope with the pandemic, how arduous was it to stability so many heavy tasks?

We spend virtually a 12 months taking pictures this movie, and the largest problem we had in the course of the pandemic was the financing. A number of studios and movie firms not simply in China however I consider in different elements of the world too, have been cautious as a result of the movies that have been completed couldn’t be launched on time, so that they had plenty of monetary crashers. Nobody knew how lengthy this entire mess would proceed, and their prices have been piling up. So, our funds have been very tight as we had difficulties with financing. Moreover, plenty of crew members needed to cancel their involvement due to the pandemic which is the one purpose why I had to take action a lot myself. However since I had a a number of roles in my earlier movies as effectively, this wasn’t one thing unknown to me.

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