Jia Zhangke, a man running towards his dream

By Li Jingrong
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 16, 2015
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In his latest interview with China News Weekly, Chinese film director Jia Zhangke expressed his personal understanding of love and affection which he has poured into most of his works.

Chinese film director Jia Zhangke. [Photo /China News Weekly]

As one of the "sixth-generation directors" in the Chinese cinema industry, 45-year-old Jia has garnered international praise and awards for a number of his films over the past 10 years, with representative works including "Mountains May Depart," "Still Life," and "A Touch Of Sin." In view of his outstanding achievements in the Chinese film industry Jia was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in May this year.

It's a beautiful thing to put affection and time together: Jia

Jia's film "Mountains May Depart" tells the story of three good friends throughout three different time frames. It starts in 1999 and takes the audience to 2014 and 2025. Two childhood friends are both in love with a town beauty, who is also a singer and dance instructor. She eventually decides to marry the wealthier one. They soon have a son named Dollar. From China to Australia, the three persons' lives, love, hopes and disillusions are traced over two generations in a society that has been rapidly changing.

Speaking of his original intentions for the film, Jia stressed that this time he mainly focused on individual characters instead of on social problems. "I am neither a journalist nor a sociologist. My goal is to show what kind of new understanding people have of affection with the passage of time, the rapid progress of technology, and the changes of lifestyles and values."

"Birth, age, illness and death -- all the problems of a person's life are accompanied with love. One can achieve a better comprehension of love only after a prolonged period of time," said Jia, adding "in the same way a man practices Buddhism all his life."

Jia insisted that he is faithful to his own feelings about present China, saying "it is a beautiful thing to put affection, love and time together in my film works."

"Mountains May Depart" premiered at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in May this year and was well-received though it didn't win any awards. It was officially screened on the Chinese mainland on Oct. 30.

Jia in the eyes of his wife and friends

Jia has a strong sense of time and has been engaged, heart and soul, into his film creations. "His dedication to the films is very attractive to me. He loves the films even better than his life," said Jia's wife Zhao Tao.

Zhao, also the leading actress of "Mountains May Depart," revealed that Jia likes to be involved directly in everything about his films and have all the details carefully worked out. "Our team is centered on the director's artistic creation, and we just help him complete his artistic plan," she said.

According to Zhao, her husband is too busy to have time to go out for recreational activities. Sometimes he works for 22 hours in a day. "He never goes shopping with me and seldom takes a break on weekends or holidays," she said.

Jia is described as "a running man" by his friends -- a director who is always in an attempt to turn his strong feelings about every single moment of life into his films. There was something behind this.

Jia's favorite classic novel is the "Heroes of the Marshes" -- a Chinese novel of the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) written by Shi Nai'an. The story has left an indelible impression on him and therefore has affected his artistic creations -- the hero Lin Chong ran wildly for his life at midnight. It has stimulated his creative inspiration to make his films closely linked with the changeable contemporary reality in which people keep on advancing and exploring as long as they are alive.

Loneliness -- a fate everybody has to face in life

Jia said his creative inspiration for the heroine Tao in the film "Mountains May Depart" came from his parents' experience.

Jia's parents were affectionate with each other. His father died suddenly in 2006 when Jia was busy with the post-production of his film "Still Life" in Beijing. Jia immediately put aside the work on hand and returned to his hometown in Shanxi Province where he made arrangements for the funeral of his father.

The death of his father was a heavy blow for him. "My mother has become very lonely since my father died. The love from the children can never replace that from the affectionate husband," Jia said.

"My mother currently lives with us. I pay two visits to her everyday -- once in the morning and once in the evening. What is she doing and thinking about during the daytime? I don't know. She speaks to nobody. If my father were still alive, the old couple could help and comfort each other," said Jia.

"Since then I have come to realize that nobody can avoid loneliness at the end of life's journey. For a beloved couple, there is always a person who leaves first. Although the scene seems far away from me now, it still makes me feel very sad whenever I think of it," said Jia.

Connecting the heroine Tao of the film "Mountains May Depart" with his parents, Jia raised these questions to himself, imagining what Tao's life would be like in the future, and if she would have any new affections.

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