“Peacock” won The Grand Jury Prize – The Silver Bear at this year’s Berlinale. Director Gu Changwei has been a famous cinematographer for many years (“Judou”, “Farewell My Concubine”, “Red Sorghum” and “The Gingerbread Man”), but “Peacock” was his debut as a director. “Peacock” was a huge hit in China, where it sold over 30 million tickets.

We follow a working class family in a small town in China between 1977 and 1984. We go through the period three times: First we follow the daughter (Zhang Jing Chu), then the older son (Feng Li) and last the younger son (Lu Yu Lai).

The girl is adventurous, rebellious and a romantic. She wants more out of life, than just cleaning bottles – the job she ends up getting for a little while at least. She seems very immature and comes out as quite a drama queen.

The older son had a cerebral fever as a young child, leaving him mentally challenged and grossly overweight. The weight may be due to his parents pampering and the resentment of his brother and sister is certainly due to that pampering.

The younger son is lazy, ashamed of his brother, but looks up to the rebelliousness of his sister.

What happens to these siblings during the period, in which we follow them, does not seem typical for the time and place – but China was already changing rapidly during that time, so I may be mistaken. Or maybe the director wanted to show an atypical family?

As expected the cinematography is beautiful. The director knew exactly which shots he wanted, and Yang Shu behind the camera delivers the goods.

At 144 minutes the film does seem at bit long. The characters did not really feel interesting enough to me to sustain such a length, but I’ll admit that from a Chinese point of view things may be different.

I always thought of young rural Chinese as much more homogenous and a lot less individual than these youngsters. And if that is the case, these characters with their individuality may seem a lot more interesting to a Chinese than they do to me.

There is no doubt in my mind that director Gu Changwei has a keen eye for getting beautiful pictures out of everyday situations, but if “Peacock” had lasted about 90 minutes, it would have been a lot more perfect to me.
Uffe Stegmann
March 13, 2005

Original Title
Kong Que
Gu Changwei
- This is his first film as director. He has made several beautiful films as cinematographer.
Zhang Jing Chu
- This is her first feature film
Feng Li
- This is his first feature film
Lu Yu Lai
- This is his first feature film
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