Review of Tuya’s Marriage (图雅的婚事, China, 2006), A Maxyee Culture Industry Co. production, in association with Xi’an Motion Picture Co. (International sales: Cineclick Asia, Seoul.)
Reviewed by USC Student Betsy Lastar
Director: Wang Quanan
Producers: Yan Jugang
Executive Producers: Yuan Hanyuan, Wang Le, Zhang Dehang
Cinematographer: Lutz Reitemeier
Art Director: Wei Tao
Screenwriters: Lu Wei
Editor: Wang Quanan
Running time: 86 MIN.
Cast: Yu Nan, Bater, Sen’ge, Zhaya (Mandarin dialogue)
Release in China: 2006
Shaoyi’s Rating: A- (Excellent)
Made in 2006 by Wang Quanan, Tuya’s Marriage follows the story of a Mongolian woman named Tuya as she faces the prospect of remarriage in order to continue supporting her family. Her current husband is unable to work due to an injury; therefore, Tuya must work alone to support her husband and two children. However, the strain begins to take its toll on her body and it becomes apparent that her only option is remarriage. Yet Tuya does not want to be parted from her current husband; therefore, her new husband must be willing to allow her old husband to live with them as well. After many offers and failed negotiations Tuya eventually ends up marrying her neighbor after he finally manages to divorce himself from his wife.
The film is as much about the environment that the characters live in as it is about the characters. The harshness of the land Tuya and her family lives on shapes them as a people. Although the film focuses on the human drama of the characters’ problems, the surrounding environment is at the root of all their problems. The injury of Tuya’s husband, which occurs before the movie begins, came as a result attempting to master the land through digging a well. Yet not only did his attempt fail as he injured himself before he could reach water and make the well usable as a reservoir, but now his wife must shoulder his load of the work as well. In order to be able to survive in the unforgiving environment Tuya must become tough too. This toughness comes out not only in her refusal to quit until she literally collapses from over exhaustion, but also in her unwillingness to let her husband be removed from her home even if it interferes with her prospects of remarriage. Like the land she lives on Tuya does not bend easily to the will of others.
The difference between the closeness in framing inside the home versus the distance of the camera from the characters when they are outside draws attention to the difference in the characters’ power over their environment. When out herding sheep, Tuya is depicted small against the vast landscape that seems to stretch on forever, yet when she is in her home the camera remains close to Tuya. Tuya can do little to change the land she lives on. The landscape exerts its power over her, but when she is in her home she is the one in control over the environment. In the earlier portion of the movie, when the hay loaded truck tips, trapping Shenge, the camera pulls back to show the looming tower of hay piled on the truck framed against the empty sky alone in the landscape. Tuya is dwarfed doubly in this scene, first by the immensity of the landscape and second by the immensity of the truck. The double diminishment of her stature serves to draw attention to her powerlessness in the situation. Her strength alone is not enough to move the truck and free Shenge. In contrast to the tiny figure that gets lost in the outside world, inside the walls of her home Tuya looms much larger within the frame. The aura of being at the mercy of the environment that she has when depicted against the terrain is replaced with the figure of a woman in command.
Tuya’s Marriage is concerned with presenting an image of a specific people; therefore, the place in which they live is an essential part of the film. Even though the film pushes the human aspects to the front of the story, behind everything looms the landscape as a silent actor within the narrative.