By Ding Xin
The title of the film “Seventeen? The Hell You Are!” is pretty meaningful. Why does the director emphasize the particular age—seventeen? Only after watching the film did I know that the ironic title reveals the real situation of the Chinese Communist Party treating Christians: The CCP will capture and afflict any of them, regardless of age. The boy is only 17 years old—but so what? The CCP can still sentence him.
The hero Gao Liang started towith his parents when he was eight years old. He began to practice preaching the with the brothers and sisters at the age of seventeen. But once on his way home after spreading the gospel to his classmates with Uncle Liu, he was arrested by the police who had lurked in the wood. The words “freedom of belief” which is expressly stipulated in Chinese Constitution has been revealed thoroughly at that moment. Believing in God in China is so dangerous and difficult.
Ironic Symbol—No Extorting Confessions by Torture
After Gao Liang and Uncle Liu are taken into the interrogation room, the police keep grilling them about the church’s money and the church leaders. Failing to get any result, the police beat them violently. Their incessant screams and the scene of being badly beaten are unbearable to hear and witness. But no matter how they scream, the CCP police still whip them fiercely. … Then the camera slowly zooms in on the words “No Extorting Confessions by Torture” on the wall. Do these words not mean that violent methods are strictly forbidden during interrogation? The scene of Gao Liang’s being beaten up is a sharp contrast to these words. Here the director lays bare the truth in this ironical manner: “The freedom of religious belief”, “protecting the lawful rights of citizens”, and “No Extorting Confessions by Torture” in Chinese law are all dead letters. It really brings the people back to earth who keep thinking that China is a country that is peaceful, democratic, and free, and also pushes the plot to a climax.
The Close-up Shot of Action—Putting Down the Unconsumed Noodles Slowly
The plot seems to have a transition after Gao Liang is taken into an office. The waiting Instructor Li hands him a steaming bowl of noodles. Having not eaten or drunk anything for some days, Gao Liang is hungry, but he has strong backbone and is not attracted to it. However, Instructor Li is quite artful. He shows his “concern” for Gao Liang and drapes a coat round Gao Liang’s shoulders. After all, Gao Liang is only a boy of seventeen. He cannot withstand that kind of “care”, so he gradually lowers his defenses, taking noodles and eating ravenously. Instructor Li talks incessantly as he is eating. Then the director takes a close-up of Gao Liang: The boy, with tears in his eyes, puts down the unconsumed noodles in his hands slowly. Though it seems one simple movement, it lays the foundation for what he says next. “You are saying all this in order to coerce me into giving up my faith and betraying my church’s leaders, right?” The words make an interpretation of the scene where he puts down the noodles: Death and starvation should be more preferable than being a Judas for the sake of an ignoble existence. Though so young, Gao Liang has such great faith in God, which is really admirable!
After failing to coax Gao Liang, Instructor Li threatens him to sell out the church leaders and the church’s money with his studies and future and arresting his parents, but Gao Liang refutes Instructor Li firmly. Here the fortitude, resolution, and the spirit of preferring death to submission of the Christians make a contrast with the CCP’s unscrupulous threats and temptations. Through this, the audience can see that there is no freedom of religious belief in China, but instead the Christians will lose educational and subsistence rights, and even their distant relatives are dragged down with them. The truth is very different from the rumors that the CCP government spreads, such as “People who believe in God don’t go to school, don’t care about their families, and they don’t want their jobs.” At this point, it is easy to tell who is right and who is wrong?
After some twists and turns, the seventeen years old boy who has suffered afflictions and tortures both physically and mentally is illegally sentenced to one year of re-education through labor.
Facial Expression—The Smile in Prison
As many people know, China’s jails are hell on earth. When one person is put in jail, even if he can luckily escape death, he will surely suffer a lot, which we have already known a little in the course of the police interrogating Gao Liang. At the labor camp, Gao Liang endures heavy manual labor which is unbearable even to an adult as well as the police’s random interrogation, violent beating and confinement. I’m so worried how a minor could walk the path ahead in such abominable conditions of prison.
However, as the plot goes on, things take a favorable turn: Gao Liang is writing under the covers with a smile. For anyone who is sentenced to hard labor, the prison life is hard, dismal, and hopeless. Yet the boy who is only 17 can give such a happy smile. This does astonish us and it is even more worthy of our reflection: What has the 17 years old boy gone through in prison? I think it must be what everybody is concerned about.
The answer is given at the end of film. Just as what Gao Liang says after he gets out of prison: “I realize deep in my heart that in this world, God alone loves man the most. Only God can save man from the dark influence of the CCP satanic regime and help man live a real life. God’s word is the faith and strength of man in trials and suffering. Under any circumstances, it can help man weather the storm and stand firm and bear witness to God. These trials and tribulations that I have endured have helped me to grow in life. It was a special gift that God brought to me at the age of seventeen.”
It is really not simple that Gao Liang can treat the unexpected arrest and the hard prison life as a special present bestowed by God. From his attitude of unwaveringly following God, we can see shades of the missionaries throughout the ages. Presumably this is the optimistic, positive, and active attitude toward life that only the Christians could have under the guidance of God. Through this comparison, we develop a bitter hatred for the CCP’s evil, cruelty and ferocity. It even doesn’t spare a minor. This really makes us enraged!