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LOCARNO 2019 Filmmakers of the Present

Review: The Cold Raising The Cold


- Chinese director Rong Guang Rong, in league with Italian producer Ambra Corinti, offers up a brutal and unsettling film on the consequences of oppression

Review: The Cold Raising The Cold

The Cold Raising The Cold [+see also:
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, the first fiction film by Chinese filmmaker Rong Guang Rong which was produced by Italy’s Ambra Corinti and presented in the Filmmakers of the Present section of the Locarno Film Festival, conveys the consequences of a lifetime’s worth of censorship and oppression. The young people portrayed by Rong Guang Rong are corrupt, ruthless and indifferent, a reflection of a sterile and robotic education founded on obedience and psychological cruelty.

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In the dark of night, a young woman called Li Jie returns home in an anonymous city in Northern China. The fate of the various characters who inhabit this universe and whose everyday gestures appear both banal and devoid of any meaning - a family that eats in silence, a strange woman who sells toffee-apples and a curious hotel guest looking to retrace his roots – is linked to that of a mysterious, faceless killer who will go on to kill them in ferocious fashion. As stated by the director himself, The Cold Raising The Cold is based upon actual events, with the film’s protagonist bringing to life the ghosts of Rong Guang Rong’s very own childhood. He takes a real story, which is brutal and somewhat disconcerting in its banality, and uses it to talk about the torments inhabiting his own mind, which are themselves the product of controversial social issues.

The boredom and monotony which engulfs the province of Dongbei, to the north of China, serve as a backdrop for this savage and angst-inducing tale where youngsters act as if lobotomised, chained to their phone screens and incapable of any form of rebellion against a society which has trained them to be placid and inoffensive. Here, Rong Guang Rong depicts the sad reality of ordinary people who unexpectedly lose control. The spark which lights the fire, which smoulders silently before roaring dangerously out of control, is the homicidal teenager who’s at the centre of the story, the one and only “rebel” who rails against this dangerously comatose society. The victims of his heinous murders never scream; it’s as if they can’t even put up resistance to the most extreme atrocities.

In Rong Guang Rong’s film, murder becomes synonymous with rebellion, the only weapon against the oppression in operation. “Parents are the first big killers, society is the second and school the third. The three work together, teaching kids to be just like them. And then, when these kids grow up, they become the next generation of killers”, the director explains. Indeed, the young people who populate The Cold Raising The Cold do seem to be left to their own devices. They’re ghosts living among other ghosts in a daily routine which trickles by as slowly as the gentle rain.

This pessimistic and cruel vision of Chinese society is conveyed through highly ordered and controlled “tableaux vivants”. The glacial beauty of the scenes portrayed here, meanwhile, merges disconcertingly with the brutality of the murders, the two joining together to perform some kind of nightmare-inducing duet, to irreversible effect.

Behind the seeming indifference of the young protagonists, there hides a white-hot world where repression and violence reign supreme. What will be the outcome of this existence founded on control and oppression? When will it all implode? But most importantly, will they direct this violence against themselves or against others? Rong Guang Rong raises this question, and others, but he doesn’t look to provide answers to them all. The Cold Raising The Cold is a mere hypothesis, a portrait of a possible scenario, but not the only scenario; it’s a brutal cinematic response to a world where freedom of expression is a fancy and nothing more.

The Cold Raising The Cold is produced by Italy’s Zajia Lab.

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(Translated from Italian)

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