Spring in a Small Town

Film Review by Sam Lewis | 18 Feb 2015
  • Spring in a Small Town
Film title: Spring in a Small Town
Director: Fei Mu
Starring: Wei Wei, Shi Yu, Li Wei, Zhang Hongmei
Release date: 23 Feb
Certificate: U

First released in 1948, Fei Mu’s masterful Spring in a Small Town was dismissed by the Communist government and only resurfaced in the 1980s. In the aftermath of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Dai family live on in the ruins of their house. The young master, Liyan, is virtually bed-ridden, and lives a twilight existence with his spritely teenage sister and his lonely wife, Zhou Yuwen. Their lives are turned upside down by the visit of Liyan’s childhood companion Zhang.

By coincidence, Zhang and Zhou Yuwen were sweethearts before the war, and the film develops around the emotional aftermath of this twist of fate, each character in turn coming to terms with the light this happy visitor has shed on their torpid state of affairs. The film's emotional complexity lends it a weight that has sustained its influence over the decades; Zhou Yuwen’s plaintive and poetic voiceover recalls the similarly romantic and enigmatic In the Mood for Love. [Sam Lewis]