Saturday, November 29, 2008
The Goddess represents the future of Shanghai. While the city lights are shining and prosperity is abound, Ruan Lingyu's character walks the street attempting to capture some of this prosperity, for her and her baby son. The past is represented by gossipers who have her son kicked out of school, because of his mother's 'alternative' lifestyle. Ruan Lingyu's character, the implied goddess of the intertitles, depicts the future through her steadfast love for her son, which unfortunately leads her to prositution and murder.
What the silent aspect of the film does so well is to create a situation that is not so melodramatic, but tragic. Through facial expressions, the silent monologue of the silver screen, we see the goddess cry and suffer, without feeling she is overacting. The absence of words also remind us that this is a film, but also that these situations are true because of the depiction of the city lights.
The Goddess represents not only the cultural future of Shanghai, but also the future of film in general. Ruan Lingyu's character is shown as a positive force in her son's life, despite being a prositute. Hollywood films until about the 1960s always depicted prostitutes in a negative light. The future of film is in this film, because it moves towards a positive portrait of a desperate lifestyle.
(The Goddess 神女, dir. Wu Yonggang 吳永剛, 1934)