Wednesday, March 11, 2009

World Movie Series - 1 - The Road Home

Before starting this series, I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks for Cheziyan who wrote a wonderful article in Vikadan about world cinema which ran for around a year– the article which introduced me a lot of world movies.

There are moments in our lives which we want to keep green throughout. The moments which stay alive and which form the base of every single thought occurring in our minds, every single time. What will happen if we share those thoughts with our children and they imagine about those evergreen memories of their parents? Well, it will result in a peaceful, serene feeling in their minds combined with their love and respect towards their parents.

‘The Road Home’ is one such journey in to the mind of a young man who recollects the romantic story of his parents.

Luo Yusheng is returning to his village from the city where he lives, after receiving the news about his father’s death the previous night. His father was a schoolteacher in the village school for 40 years. Luo comes to his village, filled with snow everywhere, and reaches his home. The mayor of the village meets him, and briefs him about his father’s death. The school building has become very old, and his father, passionate about the school and the students, decides to raise money to rebuild it. He starts his travel to places wherever he can find money. The father asks various people to donate money to the school, and while on a journey, gets caught in a violent snowstorm, falls sick and ultimately dies, without fulfilling his dream of rebuilding the school. His body is kept at the city hospital, far away from the village.

The mayor tells Luo Yusheng about his grief stricken mother. He briefs that the mother wants to observe all the traditional customs prevalent in the village. Especially, she wants the father’s body to be carried my men, all along the way from the city hospital, to the village. She refuses to bring the body in a vehicle. Having heard this, the son enquires the mayor about where he can find his mom, as she is not in the house. The mayor says she is in the old school building. She goes there and stays from the moment the father has died.

The son goes to the school building. It is in a very bad shape, and the mother is sitting at the entrance, facing the school. The son touches his mother’s shoulder. The mother becomes emotional seeing her son, and she weeps, tells him about his father’s death. He brings his mother home, and at home, the mother asks her son to repair the old loom in the house. She tells him that she wants to weave a cloth to be covered on the father’s coffin. The son pleads his mother not to strain herself, but the mother insists on weaving the cloth, and the son repairs it and keeps it ready.

As the mother starts weaving the cloth in the loom, the son thinks about how his parents met for the first time. His voice starts briefing, as we cut in to a colorful farm, with beautiful mountains at the background, and we see a long road. The son tells that his father was 20 and the mother 18, when they first met. The father was the new school teacher for the newly built school in the village. That was the day when the father arrives to the village, and the village people gather around the school to welcome the new teacher. That was the first time a school is built in the village, and hence the people are elated.

An innocent village girl, Di, hears about the teacher, and she too comes to the school to see him. The first ever time she sees this new teacher, she starts to like him, and a childlike affection develops in her heart. She comes home and briefs her blind mother about the new teacher.

The next day, Di gets ready to cook a meal, as it is customary for the village people to cook for the people working in a new building. The teacher and the fellow villagers are giving the final touches to the newly built school, and hence all the village women cook for the people working at the school. Di chooses a beautiful ceramic bowl, cooks delicious onion bread, and places it at the school. She stands among other women, eagerly looking at her bowl. Somebody takes it in to the school, and after a while, it comes out empty. This continues for three days, and Di enquires a fellow villager, who is working in the school, about how the new teacher eats. The villager says that the teacher eats inside the school, and they offer him the first ever meal they pick from outside.

Di brings water everyday from a well. There are two wells situated, one near her house and the one near the school, which is a bit distant. Di chooses to bring water from the well near the school, as she hopes she can get a glance of the new teacher. Every day while taking water and returning, she looks at the school, hearing the voice of the teacher. She also waits near the long road from the school in the evenings, as the teacher would walk a few students home. She hides behind the trees and looks at the teacher everyday. Once, the teacher spots her and gives her a smile. She becomes elated, and tells him that it is her turn to cook for the teacher the next afternoon. The teacher acknowledges and leaves. She runs away full of shyness, and the teacher calls her, points to her bag, and she comes, picks it and runs away. The teacher asks her name to a student and learns it as Di. The student shouts at Di that the teacher is asking her name, and the teacher smiles, walks away.

The next day, Di cooks a meal for the teacher. He comes to her house, and while eating, Di keeps looking at him, from the kitchen. When the teacher looks at Di, she turns away. After the meal, the teacher says it was delicious, and Di asks will he be interested in eating mushrooms, and he says he will eat it in the evening, when he returns. While the teacher is gone, the blind mother warns Di that the teacher is of a different class, and it won’t work out. Di starts cooking mushrooms, and while cooking, the teacher comes to Di, says goodbye as he has to leave the village, since the management doesn’t want him there (they think he is a revolutionist). A heartbroken Di asks when will he return, and he says he will return by 27th, as the vacation begins from 28th, and he needs to be there. He says he will come after a while to eat the mushrooms. He gifts Di with a red hairpin, and says it will match her only red jacket. Di is elated to the core, as her beloved teacher has gifted her.

After a while, Di learns that the teacher has started to the city. She hurriedly places the hot mushrooms in the same ceramic bowl, and she runs to give it to the teacher. While she is running, she trips and falls down. The bowl breaks in to pieces, and the mushroom spills away. Di slowly picks up the broken pieces, and tears start rolling down her eyes. She is very innocent, and she is not able to bear the fact that her beloved teacher is gone.
Voluntarily, she touches her hair to reach out the hairpin the teacher has gifted, and to her dismay, the hairpin has fallen somewhere. A heartbroken Di slowly walks home, sobbing all the way. We hear the son’s voice – “From that day, mom was searching for the hairpin every single day, all through the long road”. One day, she finds it at the entrance of her house.

At home, she keeps visiting the school building. One day, while she returns home, she finds the broken bowl mended perfectly. It’s her blind mother. Not able to withstand a heartbroken Di, her mom mends it. On 27th, at the dawn of the first light, Di rushes to the long road, and amidst a heavy snowfall, keeps waiting for the teacher all through the day. The teacher doesn’t come, and she returns home with a high fever. The next day, she starts to the city to find the teacher, and while she is walking on the road, due to the heavy snowfall, faints.

The mayor brings her home, and soon the news is spread all through the village about Di’s love towards the teacher. As the village is a very strict place with a lot of rules, this news is not welcomed in the village. Di awakens from her sickness one day, and the blind mother tells her that the teacher is back! He was there the previous evening, and sat a long time with Di. Di runs to the village school, and someone shouts that Di is there and the teacher comes out. Di starts crying.

The next day, the teacher has to leave to the town again. Di stands lonely at the long road, and we hear the son’s voice at the background. “That day, father had to leave to the town. Mom was waiting for father, with her heart filled with love. After a few days, father returned, and from then on, father never left mother”.

The flashback ends, and we return to the mother working at the loom. The son meets the mayor and they decide to hire men from the next village to carry the father’s coffin. They go to the city, and the mother too accompanies. They bring the father’s coffin, and hearing the news about the teacher’s death, his old students gather around, and they decide to carry the coffin. They refuse the money, and the journey begins. The mom slowly walks the long road, where she and her husband have walked together for many times. The mother wants the father to remember the road the last time, and that’s why she asks the coffin to be carried.

They reach the village. The coffin is buried near the well where the mother used to fetch water. The mom tells to bury her at the same place, after her death. The mom tells the son that it is her wish to see the son take the class at his father’s place, at least for one day. The son tells he has work in the city and got to go the next day.

The next day, the mom is awakened by the sound of the children reciting the lessons. Her husband’s lessons! She rushes to the school to find her son taking lessons there! Elated, tears flow down her old face, as slowly the scene changes to a young Di, eagerly waiting outside the school, hearing the father’s voice, teaching the lessons. The camera slowly shifts to the long road, where we see a young Di, running happily, after having picked up her bag, after talking-to the teacher. The movie ends with this shot.

‘The Road Home’ is a great film, about the golden memories we cherish in our heart. The film talks about the mother’s love towards the father, her affection to the school, her longing for the father and her innocence. The current scenes with the son are in black and white while the flashback scenes are in color. The cinematography is excellent accompanied by the realistic music.

This Chinese movie was released in 2000. It was directed by Yimou Zhang starring Zhang Zi Yi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha) as Di (her debut). It won many awards, and is a very nice film. Try seeing it, and feel the aroma of your golden memories.

See the trailer here.


Shree said...

Good review... waiting to watch it.

anbu said...


i need this film ost.... can you tell me where can i get it?....

The S c o r p said...

Hi Anbu,

I don't have an idea about the OST of this film. Better try youtube or If I come to know about it, will definitely let you know.

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