Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Not One Less

Last week I bought and watched the chinese movie 'Not One Less'. I have never heard about this movie but I decided to buy it as it is was directed by one of my favourite director Zhang Yimou.? And believe me I was really mesmerised by this movie. There is nothing special about the story but Zhang Yimou's magical treatment is what makes this movie very special.

Let me briefly give the story : The film is set in the present, in a small village in Hebei province. When teacher Gao is called home as his mother is not well, the village mayor hires Wei Minzhi as Gao’s temporary replacement. Thirteen-year-old Wei is barely older than her students. she does not have any teaching experience. But her stubbornness and determination know no bounds. Intially teacher Gao does not like the idea of keeping Wei as substitute because he is afraid that the students will leave school due to inexperienced Wei. The Mayor tells that it is impossible to find another substitute as nobody is willing to come to this remote village. Teacher Gao at last agrees and allows Wei to stay and take class for a period of one month.

The school is a one room classroom with a black board and some desk and benches. There is a room attached to the classroom which is the work place, kitchen and bedroom of the teacher. Teacher Gao gives 30 chalks (one for each day) and asks her to daily write a text on the blackboard each day and ask the student to copy it.The conversation between Gao and Wei is very interesting and is one of the highlight of the movie. The Mayor and Gao though unsure, promises Wei that she will given 50 yuans if all the 28 students are there when Gao returns after one month.
Initially Wei writes the text on the blackboard and ask the student to copy it. She locks the classroom and guards the door from outside so that nobody goes outside. As the film progresses we see that Wei becomes friendly with the students. There is an interesting scene where the Mayor brings a sport coach from city who wants to take one student with them. As Wei does not want to loose any student, she and her student hide her from the eyes of Mayor and sports coach.

One of the student, Zhang Huike is forced to go to city and work as child labour because his mother is bed-ridden and in financial debt. When Wei comes to know about this, she and her students plan to bring Zhang Huike back from the city because she can only get the 50 yuan if and only if all the students are present. Wei makes some money with the Help of the students. It is very interesting see the students and Wei making various methods to calculate the money required for the bus ticket and in the process the students learn maths. Wei arrives in city and tries to locate Zhang Huike. Ultimately she reaches the TV station and tries to put an advertisement in TV by contacting the TV Station manager. The scene where Wei waits at the gate of TV station and tries to find out the Station manager is sure to strike everybody feelings and stays in our mind forever. The TV station manager is impressed by the determination of Wei and features her in a famous TV program. Zhang Huike sees the show and thus Wei and Zhang Huike is united. The TV producers return Wei and Zhang Huike to the village along with the donations received and chalks for the school.
The neorealistic movie does not have any professional actors, all the actors were amateurs, real-life students and people of varied professions. Wei Minzi and Zhang Huike were actually were students in a rural school. The Mayor was really a mayor of a village.The TV station manager was infact a TV Station manager.? And surprisingly Zhang Yimou kept the name of the characters as the actors itself. Many of the scenes were shot with hidden cameras in real location and natural lighting so that there is a sort of realism and fascinating uncertainity. As Zhang Yimou was himself a cinematographer earlier, I need not describe more about his eye for the shot perfection. The village scenery, with a old school and the hills as backdrop was the perfect stage for the story. The film is based on a novel "There is a sun in the sky". I felt that the DVD should have added some extra features on the making of the film.


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