The Goddess (Shen nu – China 1934)
Director Yonggang Wu | DP Hong Weilie
One of the masterpieces of the silent cinema starring the legendary Chinese actress Ruan Lingyu, is a fatalistic story of entrapment and futility, which presages French poetic realism. The film is a profound and mesmerising critique of greed and bourgeois hypocrisy, set against the tender counterpoint of the bond between mother and child. The streets of Shanghai are a glittering purgatory. The fallen woman walks the dark streets of oppression and shame. Trapped and struggling, loving and kind, a prostitute and an angel, she soars with wings of joy for a brief instant above the sordid infamy of vanity, exploitation, and deprivation. A woman’s anguished bid for freedom is a revolutionary act. The whore and the mother the existential heroine made flesh.