Modern Nationalism (Benedict Anderson)
Andersons work primarily revolves around the advent and spread of nationalism. The author contends that nationalism is more of an imagined than a realistic phenomenon. As such, it stems from the fact that people in most societies do not know each other and, yet, call themselves a community. To attempt to understand the concept of nationalism, Anderson states that it is crucial to investigate the premises that underlie the formation and continued attachment of a specific group (4). Furthermore, he states that most people acknowledge themselves as a community simply because they speak the same language and share the same values, abide by a similar law, and finally are involved in the same fight against another people whose culture they do not comprehend. Therefore, such relationships have more imagined than factual nature.
The movie The Red Detachment of Women was originally produced by Xie Jin in 1961. The main actress is Wu Qinghua, who is the daughter of a poor peasant. Nanbatian, a cruel ruler, treats her alongside other poor women unfairly. Once she escapes, she joins the Red Army, which comprises of women fighting for liberation. Notably, the concept of Anderson becomes clear here: people only join and identify themselves with another group of individuals if they are pursuing similar goals in life. Therefore, this signifies that Chinese films are intent on emphasizing the oppression of specific groups in the community. In this context, the group is women.
The spectators in America, most of whom acknowledge the issue of gender bias and women insecurity, will undoubtedly comprehend the premises of the movie. However, the average American citizens might not understand, as they do not experience the same social problems as Chinese women. However, this notion is not restricted to Americans only. As such, any other country that does not face the social problem of discriminating and enslaving women will probably fail to understand the essence of this film.
According to McGrath, post-socialism is deeply embedded in the culture of the Chinese and is primarily portrayed using cinema. However, McGrath adds that this ideology often has its aesthetics, which mainly consists in realism (128). Therefore, according to McGrath, the supremacy of the Chinese film industry lies squarely in its ability to confront issues within the society using techniques of the cinematic style and other rhetoric narratives. On the other hand, Sheldon Lu refers to post-socialism as a hyphenated construction, which is comprised of more than one mode of production and temporalities. Furthermore, Sheldon Lu states that post-socialism is a symbiosis between socialism and capitalism, which include the personification of both discontinuities and continuities (2015). Therefore, the author argues that post-socialism cannot be a reality, which is also under the influence of uncertainty and contingency. In this case, an excellent example of continuities and discontinuities include aesthetics, directors, and genres.
Arguably, the Red Detachment of Women confirms the contentions of both theorists. To begin with, McGraths argument that post-socialism leads to realism is evident from the way the women in the movie adopt the harsh military lifestyle, which is often ascribed to men. Furthermore, the movie is straightforward in revealing instances of gender bias and slavery in China. On the other hand, the film also supports Lus allegations of capitalism. As such, Nanbatian, is a property owner and charges exorbitant prices for it. In essence, this ownership of vast resources by one individual amounts to absolute capitalism. Additionally, it is significant to mention that Xie Jin, who directed the film, is considered a Third-generation producer. Ideally, China has had the culture of generational producers to sustain their authentic culture.
Mise en Scene
By definition, Mise en Scene refers to the arrangement of scenery props and actors on stage for theatrical or cinematic production. Additionally, the term may also imply the act of a single scene occurring in a film. Overall, the term has a broad range of meanings but primarily refers to the act of placing artifacts and people on stage. Arguably, Mise en Scene is valuable as it enables viewers to recognize other important aspects that are neither part of the films plot nor dialogue. Moreover, many dynamics surround Mise en Scene. However, the essential ones include lighting, contrast, shooting angles, the shots, and camera proxemics. Arguably, these variables significantly influence the quality of footage and its efficiency in relaying the intended message.
In the Red Detachment of Women, the abovementioned factors play various crucial roles. To begin with, the lighting of multiple scenes aims to establish a relevant mood, which is apparently unlikely to be a significant part of the plot. For instance, the dungeons where women are restrained and abused look very dark. Fundamentally, this creates a sense of chilliness as a viewer anticipates the undesired. Additionally, the shots and the camera proxemics help viewers to understand the ongoing activities more clearly. For instance, when there ensues a war between the Red Army and Nanbatians troops, the camera proxemics is used to estimate the distance between the female soldiers and the approaching male army.
Other than that, the angles at which the movie is filmed reveal much regarding the ongoing activities. For instance, during the war between Nanbatian’s soldiers and the Red Army, the camera angle shows viewers that the feminine army is at a higher position, which is quite advantageous for attacking and defending. Similarly, there is the use of the subsidiary contrast to depict the next vie in the movie. For example, when Wu enters the dungeons of Nanbatian, the first visible sight projected by the camera is that of a male guard manning the gates. Next, the audience can hear screams from inside one of the cells as a woman is physically abused. Consequently, the camera rolls and settles the vision on the beams of the cell.
Dissidence Hypothesis (Socialist Visual Culture)
By definition, a dissidence hypothesis refers to the continual search for factors to criticize the doctrine that suggests that members of the lower class of the society depict the real situation in China. In verbatim, Tang refers to the dissidence hypothesis as a concept which “presupposes any expression of criticism voiced in China to be an act of political dissidence against a repressive regime and thus worthy of sympathy and outside support” (7). Essentially, Tang suggests that there exists a misguided notion that the progress of the society is gauged by considering the lowest ranking members of society.
Arguably, Tang uses this concept as part of his attempt to expound the relationship that exists between the social and visual transformation in China. He refers to this phenomenon as the intense visual representations that arise from high socialism. According to Tang, this is the primary tradition of China which has lasted over 60 years. Furthermore, he argues that this culture is being perpetuated to establish an inspiring visual environment, which will augment social development. Apart from that, Tang suggests that by relating the social and visual aspects in China, the country stands ready to benefit from modernized indigenous traditions and the nativizing of imports (11). However, he argues that the dissidence hypothesis taints this process and urges people to ignore it. In any case, the narratives themselves are very minor as compared to the sophisticated changes that China is witnessing.
The epitome of the dissidence hypothesis in the Red Detachment of Women is the scene when the Tyrant who imprisons and abuses his tenants holds an extravagant birthday party. Fundamentally, the Tyrant, together with all his guests, has chosen to ignore the suffering people in the dungeon and instead celebrate his development. In my opinion, Tangs concept of development is quite unsatisfying. As far as the contemporary civilized world is concerned, development cannot be termed per se if human rights are explicitly exploited. Moreover, society would significantly benefit from these women who are confined in dungeons, not because they committed wrongs, but because they are the victims of absolute poverty. Therefore, I cannot agree with Tangs position.
In fact, cities have been essential factors that contribute to the growth of Chinese cinema; moreover, the two notions are historically interrelated. For the most part, however, this relationship is symbiotic. As such, cities have proven to be rich and diverse locations to shoot films, whereas these cinematic sites have been a major source of tourist attractions for the urban centers. Therefore, this makes cinema an activity that is more important than any other types of entertainment in the city. Apart from that, cinema unites people bringing happiness, thereby enhancing social engagement, which is imperative for human health and survival.
Nonetheless, some cities in China have proven to be of substantial value in shooting films. For instance, Shanghai is a renowned location for filming in the whole of China. Moreover, the site hosts the headquarters of the Shanghai Film Group Corporation, which is arguably the largest in the world. Additionally, the reason for the popularity of this city arises from the unique scenery that it offers for producing films. In essence, Shanghai is more of a picturesque city. The premise for this assertion arises from the fact that Shanghai has pretty streets, which symbolize the features of modernization. Therefore, it is a very good spot to shoot modern films. Apart from that, Shanghai contains art villas that represent the culture of the Chinese people. Therefore, it is the most suitable location for producers who intend to film culture-centric movies.
Apart from that, Shanghai has gleaming skyscrapers in addition to the lovely French Concession. Fundamentally, this provides a rich environment to shoot films that feature a fusion of cultural and modern themes. In particular, these communal villas illustrate the architectural heritage and history of the Chinese people. Moreover, they signify the Chinese pre-colonial period. Also, the citys oriental culture and futuristic skyline make it an excellent location to shoot fictional movies. On the other hand, the city is home to a number of renowned world film producers and has the largest audience in China. Therefore, this makes the production and promotion of movies simpler.