Recently, by chance, I caught Jia Zhang-ke’s award-winning film, ‘A Touch of Sin’ , on TV. My first thought was, how did it avoid been banned by the Chinese government? It describes four incidents, based on real life events, in which ‘ordinary’ people were driven to shocking atrocities. What brought such violence out in them? The English title could be seen as blaming the evil or sin within all humans but the original name, ’Tian Zhu Ding,’ can be interpreted as ‘everything has a reason.’ It vividly recreates the deteriorating social background in China which led to the violence.
It shows a different China from the progressive image the government likes to portray, yet it was allowed to be screened nationally.
The common theme in the movie is the new ‘cultural revolution’ of money worship that creates poisonous envy in those who cannot obtain it. Perhaps it is because the film does not implicitly blame the Chinese government for this that the censors allowed it to be screened. The film can also be seen as describing a phenomenon wider than that in China – the sudden and seemingly unexplainable violent acts of individuals in countries around the world.
Jia’s film puts the causes down to boredom, loss of meaning, injustices and violence suffered personally.
In Ireland we are only beginning to witness similar cases of inexplicable fury. Ireland, like China, is losing the religious and cultural values which gave meaning and purpose to people’s lives and the only solutions are either to find a new source of hope and resilience or revive what previously provided that positivity but is now in need of updating.
Sometimes, looking at the situation in China helps us understand ourselves better.