—A film that finds an echo in many Christians
By Chengqi, Japan
Different from the films on the Christian mission or the cruel persecution of Christians, this film aims at Christians’ family life in China. What emerges is the heartbreak and the resignation of Christians in China in striving for their freedom of religion, when they face the opposition and persecution of their family who are deceived by the rumors of the Chinese Communist Party.
The film tells us a story: The protagonist Zheng Yi returned to Almighty God during study abroad in the United States. And he passed on God’s work into her Christian sister Xiaorui after he came back. Before long, their father, Zheng Weiguo, the minister of the United Front Work Department in a city of China, learned that they had believed in Almighty God. Then he strongly opposed it and stopped them from believing in God. He also used lies to lead his unbelieving wife astray to stand by him. Hence, there were series of fierce family debates on belief. At last, in order to keep his official position, Zheng Weiguo expelled his son and daughter cruelly from home. His wife turned sadly away, as well.
The scenes of the film are set mainly within and without the villa. Except for few exteriors to relieve audience’s visual fatigue, there are all interiors. Cinematically speaking, setting the scenes in a special space is usually used in the crime mysteries and the thrillers, which tests the director’s ability to make the story unfold wonderfully and make mise-en-scene flexible in a small space. Also, the small space just meets the requirements of the oppressive script. However, it is hard to show a 150-minute story in a confined space. If it isn’t handled properly, it will easily make audience feel boring, and make the film less watchable. New though the directors are, their approach is rather successful.
This is a realistic family film, but the scenarists don’t analyze longitudinally the history of persecution of Christianity in China under the CCP’s red rule; instead, they use the representative family, the family of a minister of the United Front Work Department as a microcosm of the hard existence of believers in God under the CCP’s red government, showing the domestic life of Christians in China, especially that of those families in which only part of their members are believers. In this film, the major characters are the four of the family. Among them, the hero and his sister are believers in God while their parents are not. And his father, is even a minister of the United Front Work Department, an officer of the department which specially hunts believers in God under the authority of the CCP. The characters of theists and atheists destine that the film will be full of the sharp contradiction and conflicts. Besides, there are many long takes in the film, ensuring the emotional coherence of the characters, which can attract audience deeply. What’s more, the performers take their places naturally during debates, reflecting their moods, which makes me think of the family debate scene in the BBC film An Inspector Calls.
We can appreciate this film in two aspects: On one hand, the major rumors spread by the CCP are refuted thoroughly through the emotional interaction and debates among family; on the other hand, the CCP’s religious policies and long-term red brainwashing, which are reflected by the film, take Chinese people on the road to denying and resisting God, having a profound effect on them.
Two Types of People Living Under the Same Roof
It is difficult for the performers to do their roles in a confined space: They can’t be emotionless and devoid of life; they have to intensify the contradiction continuously through the words and body action, so as to reflect their intense misery beneath which they struggle, and the gradual transformation and opposition of their ideas and views. Though they are not the professionally trained performers, they can capture the moods of the characters and handle them with skillful techniques. Presumably they have had the similar experiences in Mainland China, so they can interpret their roles so truly and naturally.
At the beginning, from picking up Zheng Yi in the airport to the family reunion, the film presents a warm and happy family to us—the loving mother, the stern father, the dutiful son and daughter, the good education, the decent works, and the rich material life—which can be called a perfect family in the world’s eyes. The father Zheng Weiguo is the host of the family. The strong and arrogant tone reveals his paternity status in the family; the identity of the minister of the United Front Work Department makes him become the best spokesman of the CCP’s centralized regime and red education. During the debates with his son and daughter, he repeatedly uses various rumors and fallacies of the CCP government, and at every scene he repeatedly stresses the family education of the CCP is as follows: Party members’ children must believe in Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, and are definitely not permitted to; if they believe in God, it means that they betray the CCP; party members’ children must listen to the CCP and follow and belong to the CCP forever. What a ridiculous fallacy! While denying God, the CCP treats itself as the embodiment of the truth at the same, playing a role of morally edifying the public.
The son Zheng Yi, a Christian, believed in Almighty God during study abroad in USA. He, honest and upright, loves the truth and is interested in the positive things. When the father racks his brains to hinder them from believing in God through the rumors and fallacies the CCP government makes, Zheng Yi debates with his father with the truth one by one, dissecting the CCP’s evil substance of resisting God; he supports his weak sister and enlightens his mother deceived by the rumors. Also, we can see his love for the family and his filial piety to parents from several little movements revealed naturally in the daily life: embracing his family after a long separation, helping his parents to some vegetables, and rubbing shoulder for his father. Arguing with the father isn’t the sign of unfilialness, but is out of his love and worry for his family—he fears that his father will be punished for resisting God. Especially in the close-up of the last scene, after Zheng Yi packed up, he watches the family photograph, with tears in his eyes and hands trembling slightly. And the sad score suggested his tangled emotions—he is so heartbroken that he cannot bear to part with his family but have no choice. At this moment, no one will criticize him. Instead, people will sympathize with his dilemma, sighing that why it is so difficult to believe in God in China?
“It’s Over. The Family Is Over!”
In the last of the film, the director handles the scene in a concise and direct manner, with plot twists and turns, the movie has many climax. The scene filmed in long take is coherent and smooth. The performers change their positions unceasingly in front of the camera, and have a certain mood every time when they take their places, which indicates the fierceness of the debate and brings out their emotions naturally, making the audience associate with the next situation easily.
When the CCP government issues the secret document again to attack and persecute further the house churches, the story reaches its climax. On entering the home, the father Zheng Weiguo is in great anger. The orchestral music and drumbeat increase the tension of the film. At first, he blames the son and the daughter with the CCP’s rumors, while the son and the daughter strive for advising him not to resist God, lest being punished by God. Then the father turns red and roars with rage: “I am a faithful follower of devotee of Satan Marx, a confirmed atheist … Later, even though falling into the eighteenth level of the hell, I am willing!” This outbreak of hysteria reveals his inward rigidness and pertinacity. Later, the son makes nearer and nearer him, while he is farther and farther from the son. Pacing to and fro and folding his arms reflect his inward disgust and irritation. While the rhythm of the music is speeding up, the plot becomes tense and the debate becomes sharp. At present, the inward emotion of the son and the daughter is complex, including the love for and the hate to their father, disappointment but a thread of hope, and final despair. The father is reduced to silence by the son and the daughter, but he cannot accept the fact that his authority is challenged. He is so angry to beat the daughter, but is stopped by the brother that cares for the sister so much. The father’s behavior makes the children so bitterly disappointed. So Zheng Yi says with some grief and indignation, “So many people acknowledge God, only the demon refuses.” But at this time, Zheng Weiguo slaps his son in the face hard madly. This moment, there is a peal of thunder from outdoors, which indicates a storm is brewing, and also tells us the story is up to another high tide. The whole performance is coherent and smooth. The interactions among the performers stir their feelings and brew their moods, and the last bursts surprise all audience greatly. Yet the film doesn’t work up at once, but has a moment’s pause, making the audience have some time to ponder on the brilliant moment just now.
While the shot is diverted back indoors, the darkened lamplight, the performers’ complex expression, and seconds of silence create a somber and oppressive atmosphere, adopts the method of “silence is more powerful than sound at that time,” this makes me think of the opening of Cao Yu’s drama “Thunderstorm,” yet in this film it is artistically used in the ending of this film by the director. The cruel word of Zheng Weiguo tells us that the family are going to go their own way separately. The children choose to believe in God to walk on the right way of human life, but are refused by the red family and are driven out of the door cruelly. The father’s cruelty, the mother’s and the children’s unwillingness to part with each other, and the sad score make the parting scene so true and moving that people shed tears many times. When Zheng Yi walks out of the door with the baggage, the scene focuses on the family photo. Then the light is off, leaving the photo into darkness, indicating that their former happy family falls into darkness and can’t see the bright light. At this moment, there is no more heart-broken one than the mother. At the heavy rainy night, she chases the car and cries her children’s names. Whoever sees such scene will be moved. The happy family is broken just like this! The last two words of the father—“It’s over! The family is over!” “Damn the party! Damn the government! Damn the red re-education, red rule?! Go to hell!”—are truly ironical. These two words also are worthy to be thought deeply: Who is it that causes this? Who is it that breaks the former happy family? Though the director doesn’t give us the direct answer, I believe that audience can understand some from the film. If the father can be in favor of the children’s believing in God, or the country can permit its people to believe in God freely, the ending of the film won’t be like this.
The Wings of a Crow Can’t Shade the Brilliant of the Sun
In the film, the father is a typical atheist, sophisticated, selfish and base. He loves the children as well, but, to keep his own official position, he does his utmost to object against the children’s believing in God. He even tells his wife that he would rather let their children smoke, drink and gamble than let them believe in God. Having worked within the CCP system for half of his life, he must be very clear about the CCP’s shameful acts and base intention. However, he stresses “A wise man submits to the circumstances” from beginning to end, thinking that being in the power of the CCP, he is wise to listen to the CCP and be faithful to the CCP. What’s more, he educates forcefully his children to follow the CCP. This reflects that the CCP fears that the people break its thought control and threaten its dictatorial regime, in that it will never be worshiped once people all believe in God. In the film, the daughter almost begs his father, “We just want the freedom of belief. It’s enough! Can’t we get it?” but what she gets is the father’s sharper reprimand; the son strives for advising his father due to the love for the family, for fear that the father would be punished for resisting God, while what he receives is father’s cold smack. All of these details make us directly understand that though the family is rich from an external point of view, they are not released or free but depressive and miserable for they are under the shadow of the red rule.
At last, I’d like to talk about the meaningful name of the film “Red Re-education at Home.” In my opinion, it is not only the education of a family, but that of a country. Since the CCP used the violence and lies to seize the power, it has been advocating its red party culture nationwide, such as the purge, the Cultural Revolution, the red revolutionary songs and model operas. The atheism and the theory of evolution have been infiltrated into Chinese people’s bone marrow and blood through the government’s propaganda, schooling and family life. In order to cultivate its faithful followers, it demands that the primary school students should wear the red scarves to join the China Young Pioneers, the junior school students and the senior school students should join the Communist Youth League of China, and the university students should join the CCP. “All listen to the CCP,” “The CCP is great, glorious and correct,” “A lie, if repeated ten thousand times, will become the truth,” “To battle with God is great fun! To battle with Earth is great fun! To battle with people is great fun,” all of the tumors of the red thoughts directly result in the distortion of humanity and the dislocation of the viewpoint, so people have become cunning, selfish and cowardly. From the point of view of anthroposociology, in a nation who have no faith and mental pursuit, the acquisitive minds and the rampant consumerism can only bring the moral decline, and people aren’t like they used to be; in the spiritual world, a nation or a country who don’t worship God can’t obtain God’s blessing, which can be seen from the unceasing natural and manmade disasters during the 70 years of rule by the CCP. Believing in God is the right way of human life—this is the values of public; while being deeply poisoned by the CCP’s red education, the Chinese people think, in their conscience, believing in God is an ignorant and lose-face thing, and is opposing the CCP. This makes me remember the Lord’s words in the, “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). The CCP’s red education has led the Chinese people into the no-return road to denying God and resisting God.
As the ruler of the greatest and the last red empire in the world, the CCP has always been resisting God. It has been wantonly making rumors and smearing against Christ, and condemning and capturing Christians. Nevertheless, just as the son’s words to his father “How can the black cloud cover the sun? Can the wings of a crow shade the brilliant of the sun?” Lies can never change fact. Which one is the righteous? Everyone knows it clearly for justice resides in the human heart!
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