Ju Dou is a haunting film which documents the trials and tribulations that Ju Dou has to face after wedding an abusive husband. She soon falls in love with her husband’s nephew and conceives his child. With such a dark secret under her belt, can she ever find happiness?
The film’s main characters are neatly divided into 3 main archetypes. The main protagonist Yang Tian-Qing, the antagonist Yang Jin-Shan and the damsel in the distress Ju Dou. Amongst the 3 characters, the one that stood out to me was our main actress Ju Dou. She silently endures her nightly abuse, slowly building up the courage to stand against her aggressor. Later on, she even openly calls for her abuser’s death, ready to take action in her lover’s stead. In comparison, Tian-Qing is a cowardly figure. He acts only to satisfy the pang in his loins and out of pure need. This is evident as even when he is given sufficient justification for the villain’s murder, he spares him out of fear, allowing evil to fester.
The setting in this film contributes just as much as the characters to the story. The bright red cloth being made in the dye factory acts as the motif for the film. Before each pinnacle moment, the color red appears to envelope the entire scene. An example would be the conception of their child and when the villain of the film is finally put down. This color increases the heart-rate of the viewer and thus sets the mood for the intense scene. Ironically unlike the bright sequin, the burning passion in the two lovers can’t be shown openly but rather ends up muted and hidden from sight.
The portrayal of women is negative in this film. The camera follows our main actress around the factory as velvety sheets cascade around her. Such camera work allows our male audience to project themselves into the scene, thus creating a “male gaze”. An object rather than a person. But that’s only the beginning. Another aspect shown is the inherently low value of women in rural China. Unlike males, females are unable to carry on the family name. As such abortion was common and girls often became like Ju Dou, sold off for a quick buck. All in all women seem to be there just for male satisfaction.
Along with its message against misogyny, it holds another hidden message. The message being that human desire should not be suppressed because of tradition. As we can see in the film, the traditions of ancient China were a patriarchal one which led to the abuse of Ju Dou.
A beautiful tale of romance that ends in tragedy. Ju Dou brings to the table not only a great story but an even greater message. 7/10.
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