Communism and Mise-en-Scene Technique in the Film Yellow Earth

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Communism and Mise-en-Scene Technique in the Film Yellow Earth

As one of the earliest films to come out of communist China’s new film schools in the 1980s, director Chen Kaige’s Yellow Earth reveals much about the Chinese communist party’s interpretation of the years before 1949 (the year of the Communist victory in China). Yellow Earth takes on the appearance of Communist propaganda films as the plot and themes develop. The minimalist mise-en-scene technique effectively illustrates the activities and rituals of daily rural Chinese life throughout the film. Nowhere in the film is the effectiveness of this technique more apparent than in the final scene when Han-Han struggles against the crowd to return to Gu.

Many of the scenes in
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By rarely moving the camera during a scene, Kaige permits the viewer to witness the plot development objectively and completely, and form his or her own conclusions about the characters.

The effectiveness of Kaige’s mise-en-scene technique is never more apparent than in what is arguably the most important scene in the film- Han-Han’s desperate run back to Gu. Although the camera angles change during the scene, the long shot is maintained throughout. The viewer sees Han-Han from a distance as he struggles against the crowd towards Gu on the hill. By not following Han-Han with close-up shots, Kaige makes the scene more realistic, as the viewer watches Han-Han disappear behind taller men in the crowd and reappear just as the viewer is convinced he must have been trampled. The mise-en-scene technique shows the scene as it would happen in reality, adding to the drama and tension of the moment- will young Han-Han successfully run upstream against the crowd of grown men?

The importance of this scene lies in its symbolic embodiment of the film’s themes, namely the spread of Communism in rural China, as depicted by the party. After the village men pray to their god to deliver rain, the viewer sees Han-Han frantically run towards the Communist soldier on the hill crying, “Save our people!” In running against the crowd, Han-Han symbolizes the struggle of Communism to convert the Chinese people and

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