Return to Dust (2022) Berlinale 2022

February 13th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Li Ruijin | Cast: Renlin Wu, Hai-Qing | China, Drama 131′

Love is not about staring at each other, but looking in the same direction

The sun shines and each frame glows with painterly charm in this modest but momentous story of love in adversity for two people rejected by their family and forced into a humble existence on their isolated homestead in rural northwestern China, after an arranged marriage.

Competing in this year’s main competition line-up at Berlinale Return to Dust is the latest from Chinese independent director Li Ruijin who scores subtle political points behind his perfectly pitched storyline that speaks volumes focusing on farmers Ma (Renlin Wu) and Gui (Hai-Qing) as they facing the odds together in the rugged landscape with only their livestock for company. Poignance contrasts with dark humour as Ruijin depicts the crass materialism of modern China with the poetic honesty of the past: one scene features their donkey alongside a flash new BMW signalling that time inevitably must move on. 

Each day a new challenge presents itself and Ma and Cao seem to cope without drama fronting up placidly seemingly unsurmountable hardship in the haunting beauty of the remote landscape. Li Ruijun – who was last at Berlin with his 2015 feature River Road – focuses on the growing strength of their relationship as it transforms from initial diffidence to enduring love. MT

BERLINALE FILM FESTIVAL | GOLDEN BEAR COMPETITION 

 

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