Egg and Stone
Meticulous in every way: the non-professional actors with incredible skills, the beautiful camerawork, the timing and dosing of the tragic storyline about a fourteen-year-old Chinese girl from the countryside. A grown-up feature film debut by a major talent.
In the village where she was born in the province of Hunan, Huang Ji filmed this quietly disturbing, sober drama about 14-year-old Honggui, who is forced to live with her uncle and aunt in the countryside. The girl is not wanted. Nor was she wanted by her parents, who apparently intended to farm her out to family for two years so they could work in the city. In the meantime, seven years have passed. When she tries to make contact, her real mother is too busy to take her call.
The tragedy of Honggui's personal story gradually unfolds. At the same time, in her feature debut, Huang (b. 1984) shows us how other Chinese women are also often afflicted. Not only by the widespread poverty, combined with the policy to restrict births that ensures that parents primarily want boys. A story read out loud in the film illustrates just how deeply-anchored oppressive thoughts about women are in Chinese culture. The blood of women pollutes the water for virtuous men, they say, and women can only cleanse themselves by praying. It’s the fault of woman, just as in the Old Testament.
But the men in Egg and Stone are not that virtuous. The visual motif of Honggui's spread and closed legs, which the filmmaker uses repeatedly with suitable reserve, is a painful and gripping reminder of the tyrannical power that men can take - a power justified by the creative interpretation of principles apparently granted by God.