I took the advice of my husband this morning and ditched the Romanian drama Sieranevada. His advice was to make sure I enjoyed my MIFF experience and to not make it hard work. My MIFF buddy Alex pointed out that Sieranevada is nearly three hours long and I just didn’t feel like it. Instead, I booked this Chinese drama, What’s in the Darkness, that reads like a Nancy Drew set in rural China. It isn’t. Strangely, it is not so different from last night’s The Demons.
We see the world through the eyes of Qu, a young girl, like Felix, on the cusp of puberty and trying to make sense of how she fits into the world and what is right and wrong. She watches those around her: her father, a detective who insists on forensic evidence but can’t stand up to the ridicule of those around him; her mother who echoes her father in expressing disappointment in how Qu acts; Zhang, the sexually mature and confident classmate who tries to help her be more sophisticated; the boy who admires her and spies on her.
Two girls have been murdered and the ineptitude and disharmony of the police is shown through Qu’s father’s idealistic beliefs and Zhang’s father’s technique of torturing and beating confessions out of the most likely perpetrator. What I found most disconcerting was the limitations placed on girls. Qu is continually being watched by men, something she is oblivious to. Her parents harangue her about her unladylike behaviour and blame her for the inappropriate behaviour of others – “Flies wouldn’t hang around you if you didn’t smell.” Zhang is admired, feared and ultimately discarded because she will not comply.
Like The Demons, I’m not sure what the overall message is except that adolescence is a difficult time where you are vulnerable to the influences and weaknesses of others. In both films, the parents seem oblivious to the vulnerability of their child and how they contribute to it.
Bechdel test – pass