The Chinese movies and TV dramas of these days are sick.
This has become a common sense now.
No matter how ridiculous the plot is, no matter how absurd the background is, as long as it’s a major IP in net literature, there would always be people willing to film it. And they would undoubtedly film them with some young hype-celebrities.
Actually you can find a lot of big-budget productions among them, but usually they ended up really bad.
Movies like Once Upon A Time and Legend of Ravaging Dynasties are almost provocation against the bottom line of the Chinese audience.
But right in such a morbid market, there is a woman striding against the storm.
Her novels are not really highly popular. And in fact they belong to serious literature. But famous directors keep recomposing her novels into movies and the movies usually became not only commercial triumphs but also creative masterpieces.
Most of the cases were that the movies got phenomenal and in return boasted the sales of the books.
The directors who came to her include Li’an, Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Feng Xiaogang and Zhang Aijia.
And the original book for the Feng Xiaogang movie was even a requirement from Feng himself right in the beginning.
That movie is the upcoming Youth.
And the name of that woman behind this movie is Yan Geling.
So far, there have been more than 10 Yan Geling books which were recomposed onto the big-screen.
The most famous one among them all may be The Flowers of War.
Before that, there were The Sent-Down Girl and Siao Yu.
The Sent-Down Girl was starred by Li Xiaolu. Siao Yu was starred by Liu Ruoying. And their bright careers both started from the roles they played in Yan's movies.
After that, there was Coming Home.
The astonishing acting skills that Gong Li and Chen Daoming showed in it were really marvelous.
The high frequency of having works recomposed into movies made Yan Geling quite unique among the serious writers.
If not for her, the Chinese movie industry would be in unbearable darkness.
The reason that all these major directors are so fond of Yan Geling is that her novels really have a signature touch.
Her words are not just words. They are words with images. And this makes them superbly suitable for recomposing into movies.
For example, these sentences are a description from Youth:
“Right at the moment that Ding Ding turned her head, her earphones dropped on the floor. Liu Feng eagerly bent down to pick them up for her, and when he tried to straight up again he suddenly felt a chill from the back of his neck. A drop of water sneaked in along the collar of his white polyester shirt.”
This is her style: sharp.
When she tells a story, she does not just use sentences. She uses scenes.
Her personal life experience contributed a lot in her writing.
Originally, she was a playwright.
In the 1980s, Yan Geling had published her own plays and some of them were even filmed.
Early in her twenties, she was already a playwright with some fame.
And as time went by, this sense of scenes became an intuition for her. It became ubiquitous in the words she wrote.
But she didn’t just wanted to be a playwright.
The role she set for herself was a novelist.
And her rich experience made this so natural.
She spent her childhood as a little girl in the community of the writers’ association.
She served in the army when she was a teenager.
After she turned 30 she set out on her journey to study in the USA and later became an outstanding icon among the overseas Chinese writers.
After that she married to Laurence, a US diplomatist, and traveled the world as the wife of an ambassador.
Now she is also a Hollywood scriptwriter.
Her novels are touching, and so are the movies that they became.
If you watch The Flowers of War, you’ll feel how exquisite and subtle the emotions in it are.
And interwoven among these emotions is the complexity of humanity.
What’s precious is that these are all real feelings, not some forged sentiments.
Yan Geling herself once said: “What I hate the most is forged sentiment.”
And that’s why she loves movies but does not like TV dramas at all.
She is trying to tell this country through her works: Our audience does have patience and what’s popular can also be serious at the same time.
It’s just that the kind of people who know how to hold all these elements together are really rare.
And too many other people are just fickle.