Film review: Return to Dust (2022) by by Li Ruijun

‘Outdated methods’ meet modernity in its purest brutality in Li Ruijun’s drama “Return To Mud”, a shoking proof of life’s injustices which have the tendency of pouring on some individuals’s heads bucketwise. When they don’t precisely pour over the top of Ma (Renlin Wu), the least cherished of many brothers, than the heavy rains do. However as the great man could be very a lot used to it, he takes no matter comes with the calmness of somebody who doesn’t want a lot of life, and has even much less to lose.

Return to Mud” screened at Berlin International Film Festival

Li takes us to the huge landscapes of Gaotai and its environment on a journey by means of all 4 seasons and completely different levels of radical adjustments Ma is met with throughout that point. It isn’t solely his life that will get impacted by the sudden look of land builders. The entire group should face new, out-of-the-blue laws concerning the housing coverage and consequently, a attainable lack of land. Some can be fast to embrace the chance to maneuver to the town, and others should weigh their choices. Ma will personally undergo one ready-to-tear-down home to the opposite, taking it as one thing he can’t change and subsequently received’t lose a phrase about, however he’ll finally construct his personal factor, patiently forming one brick after the opposite from the mud.

Earlier than something of it turns into actually related, there’s solely Ma and his sudden, organized marriage to a different outcast – Guiying (Hai Qing), similar to him, one other middle-aged burden to a broader household of ‘well-wishers’. As soon as they’re off their kinfolk’ becks, nobody rally cares what’s going to come out of that bond, nor do they ever get guests to investigate about their well being. This alone must be sufficient to make the story wave its positive cloth across the easy premise of two loners discovering their luck, however there’s something lacking. That is perhaps resulting from an extended intro and an insuficient portion of luck dominating the display screen to determine the bond between the primary protagonists and the viewers. On the similar time, it’s a relationship hardly ever seen on huge display screen – easy, pure-hearted and stripped of drama. As a substitute of a lot dialogues, we’re supplied small stolen moments of virtually fully silent, non-sexual intimacy.

An awkwardly tied liaison between Ma and Guiying clearly does change into one thing extra, deeper and sincerer than anybody of their group has, however aside from not taking part in on that ticket with sufficient depth (elaborating extra on it might embrace spoilers) “Return to Mud” is somewhat talking in regards to the quick time we’re given on this earth and the speedy, cruel change in life tempo we’ve been experiencing the final twenty years. The economic mill is crushing villages and rural communities, remodeling them into same-looking smelly components of a bigger capitalist equipment. The land is meant to be ‘taking care of itself’ as soon as within the arms of huge agricultural conglomorates, and arms that used to work it earlier than can be busy with one thing else, in one other stomach of the economic beast. As a local of Gaotai and farmer himself, Li initiatives his romanticised picture of the world on the display screen, selecting the ‘previous methods’ over modernity, and there’s nothing fallacious in it. However he likes it previous, previous, with plow pulled by a donkey and all work achieved manually, like there isn’t any mid manner for each retaining the love for the land and saving the again from bursting in half.

There’s a third siginificant character within the film, a distant cousin of Bresson’s Balthazar, and a real star of the display screen. The anonymous donkey will comply with wherever the spouses transfer and it’ll function a silent connection between them and the land.

Concerning the solid for the roles of Ma and Guiying, it’s fascinating to see Renlin Wu – an area inhabitant of Gaotai and pesant himself having the ability to play tête-à-tete with a giant star like Hai Qing and giving the impression like he’s by no means achieved anything in his life. Though he acted in two of Li Ruijun’s earlier movies, these roles have been a lot much less demanding.

Concerning cinematography, Wang Weihua actually sticks to the movie’s title and we are able to nearly style the mud particles in our mouths. However he additionally is aware of how to brighten up the display screen by embracing the countless corn fields of their lavish magnificence together with his lense.

“Return to Mud” was in the primary competitors of Berlinale which can most likely safe its possibilities of travelling to additional festivals.



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