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The Fragile House [2018]: ‘Locarno’ Review

The Fragile house is a parable on the wretched condition of the working class and its irreversible consequences on the people around them. Film-maker Lin Zi and cinematographer WU Wei use the inventive device of constantly changing the aspect ratio of the sequences that renders extra layer to the narration. It helps to isolate the characters and, at times, create the confined space to convey the psyche of an individual and build the claustrophobia in those confined space. 

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The Fragile house is a parable on the wretched condition of the working class and its irreversible consequences on the people around them. Film-maker Lin Zi and cinematographer WU Wei use the inventive device of constantly changing the aspect ratio of the sequences that renders extra layer to the narration. It helps to isolate the characters and, at times, create the confined space to convey the psyche of an individual and give the feeling of claustrophobia in those confined space. But it doesn’t work later as it seems the narration is overpowered by the constant change of the aspect ratio.

The film keeps Cui Ying, the middle-aged woman, at the vantage point to surgically explore the crumbling socialist market economy of China and direct & indirect repressive effect on people around her. Cui Ying’s younger sister Huang CuiNa, drops by, demanding repayment of a debt. The 4.00:1 aspect ratio with three boxes of 1.33:1, which were used effectively in Abel Gance’s silent French epic film Napoleon, captures the flat of Cui Ying but cut them into three closed boxes that consists Cui Ying’s children, Cui Ying and her husband, and Huang CuiNa. It’s a new year eve. Cui’s eldest son calls the Police forcing the entire family to spend the party at the station.




Cui Ying is frequently chased & pestered by her hired construction workers for money, as all of them are already broke and have nothing left to feed the family. A few of them even successfully steal the equipment from the construction site as a revenge on her and for the sake of money. Though it was heartbreaking to see that the worker at the helm of security of those equipment denies any medical assistant as it might put him out of work.

Cui’s personal life comes crashing down when she gets a discouraging call from the younger son’s teacher. To escape all the quandaries, she takes her family to visit his hometown in the country. A complaint call from the teacher gives an excuse to send the younger son to a “chickenshit” village. The film-maker Lin Zi never provides answers to the conflicts he raises. The conflict per se is not the one that the audience could get in their shoes to reach the resolution. Instead, he just leaves them as it is, just like life, just like we want to overlook & forget those problems for an ephemeral moment.

★★★




“The Fragile House” WAS SCREENED AT THE 2018 LOCARNO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.
CLICK HERE FOR OUR COMPLETE LOCARNO COVERAGE.

Director: LIN Zi
Cast: ZENG Xiaolian, WOO Hye Kyung , XIAO Jie , SANG Guosheng , REN Yue
Language: Chinese
Duration: 81 minutes
Producer: LI Mingyang, SU Zhenfeng
Coproducer: ZHANG Han, HAN Yijing
Executive producer: SU Zhenfeng
Cinematography: WU Wei
Screenplay: LIN Zi
Sound: LU Linnan
Editing: LIN Zi

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