Director: Zhou Sun | 96 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Gong Li, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Sun Honglei
Poetic drama. The piece is started by the sonorous and melancholic sounds of a cello. This is typical of the atmosphere of the film, which begins and ends with a poem. The film even seems like a classic poem in itself, with the use of visual texts and repetition. Like the vet Zhang (Sun Honglei) who says to Zhou Yu, “I envy Chen Qing.” And later Xiu (Gong Li): “I envy Zhou Yu.” The viewer is often misled using flashbacks, which sometimes turn out not to be flashbacks, and the story told from the perspective of the narrator who is now Chen Qing’s girlfriend. She is very much like Zhou Yu. Is it now or not?
Unanswered questions, another important element. Why was Chen Qing so afraid to give a lecture? Did Chen Qing not write the poems himself, or can he no longer bear the pressure on him to perform as a poet? Riddles like that make the story interesting. And the biggest conundrum is Zhou Yu. Her doubting attitude towards the charming, more materialistic vet, her obsessive travels. Her complex character, and possessive feelings for the poet Chen Qing. The search with Zhang for the lake from Chen Qing’s poem that she cannot find. The poet in Zhang comes loose and he says something like, “If you don’t really believe in something, then it never was, but if it really exists in you, then it’s really there.”
This claim to the imagination is also repeated. Later as Zhang he says he saw Chen Qing and much later when Xiu says she saw Zhou Yu. This change of reality and imagination is an important thread through Zhou Yu’s Train. You think you see the landscape in front of Chen Qing’s window go by, as if you were on the train. The beautiful Chinese landscapes and the beautiful compositions of interior and actors are visual in visual terms.
“Zhou Yu’s Train” is a real work of art that sometimes looks a bit artificial. Precisely because of the many repetitions and sticking to a certain pattern. By letting the viewer experience the film from Xiu, and because it soon becomes clear that it will end badly, Zhou Sun creates an emotional distance and a somewhat static whole. The actors intrigue and invite you to follow the story. That story is exciting and ultimately logical. The film is reminiscent of a work of art in an exhibition, where you can occasionally dream away in the landscape of an abstract painting.