Lit 088 Self and Society in Chinese Literature
December 4, 12
Change is Constant
In a 1999 Chinese comedy-drama film, Shower, the director Zhang Yang explores the many facets of the Chinese economic revolution. The story follows a father and his two sons through the economic ups and downs facing China. The aging father, Mr. Liu, and his mentally challenged younger son, Er-Ming, operate a bathhouse in Shenzhen, China. After receiving a fabricated card in the mail, the older brother, Da-Ming, leaves the city and returns to his hometown. He read that his father had passed away, while in fact his father is still alive. Da-Ming has a tough time fitting in with Er-Ming and his father. Mr. Liu eventually passes away while taking a bath, leaving Da-Ming responsible for his mentally challenged brother. This is when the characters’ fortune changed. Through series of revealing events, the film portrays the dark side of the “new” China.
The majority of the film was shot in the bathhouse. The bathhouse, along with the whole town was to be torn by the government in order to modernize the countryside. As the film progresses, it is revealed that the bathhouse was not just a place to take baths, but rather it served as a social center for the town. The town-dwellers enjoyed taking baths in the bathhouse, and everyone was friendly towards one another. Every day, the patrons would generally spend their entire dayin the bathhouse. Activities would range from playing a game of Chinese chess to gazing upon a duel of cricket fighting. People gossiped, bickered and reconciled there. Mr. Liu acted as a problem solver and a mediator for his patrons. Mr. Liu took it so far, as to saving the “drowning” marriage of his patron.
Water is a key symbol in the film. Besides being used physically in the bathhouse, water holds a higher symbolic significance. In the flashbacks, Mr. Liu extrapolates upon the importance of water and the sacrifice of people....