King Hu’s first film Sons of Good Earth, takes a very humanistic view of the corruption within a town in the Wen Cheng county as well as the tyranny Japan had pressed upon the Chinese when they overruled the town for eight years. The audience follows the story of He Hua, a slave in the prostitute ring, and Yu Rui a young painter who paints the walls of the city with propaganda.
This film takes its time in the beginning of the film introducing all of the characters and their background. Hu focuses on the chinese community and the conflicts with the prostitute ring. Through this exposition we are able connect more to all of the characters in the town as well as experience the development of Yu Rui and He Hua’s affection for each other. Through this part of the film focuses more on the comedic elements of the characters and their chemistry with each other Just as the community conflicts appear to have resolved themselves, a much greater enemy presents itself, the Japanese soldiers.
A paradigm tone shift occurs once Japan invades China, and the Chinese accommodate to the foreigners out of fear. Many of the Chinese soldiers are forced to appease the Japanese in order to prevent harm to others of the community. Hu shows humanity’s tendency to swallow their pride and honor in order to survive, but he shows the people’s natural instinct to revolt and rebel against those who wish to oppress them.
There were some noticable logical flaws in the story that made me cringe and question its authenticity. Not a single bullet could hit Yu Rui within any of the firefights, despite running through bullet hell. The character’s decision to not watch his brother’s back in combat, which could have prevented an unnecessary death. The editing of the film also could have been spliced cleaner together, although this may be looking from a 21st century perspective of film making.
After watching this film in class, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, despite the logical flaws and editing issues. This film is a look into the history of China as well as into the history of Chinese cinema, and I would definitely recommend this film.