Set in the Shaanxi province of Northern China, IN THE WILD MOUNTAINS is a simple yet insightful tale of village life and how economic changes in the country affect even the most remote regions. Hehe and Huihui are brothers of completely opposite disposition. Huihui, the elder, is content
with a simple lifestyle, whereas the industrious Hehe is continuously searching for means to better his life. Huihui's greatest desire is to have a child, but his wife Guijan cannot bear one. As the film opens, Hehe has been kicked out of the house by his wife (Qiurong) because he demands too much
independence and refuses to ask for any assistance. He stays at his brother's house, where he develops a strong attachment to Guijan, who admires his industriousness while deriding her own husband's laziness. This leads to further family strife that forces Hehe to leave the village to search for
work in the city. Meanwhile, Huihui watches over Qiurong at his brother's request and grows increasingly fond of her, as the young child he has always wanted. Hehe comes back to the village with tales of all the wondrous things in the city, completely mystifying Guijan. On Hehe's next trip, Guijan
follows him. Rumors that the two have eloped spread through the village so that when Guijan comes back she is publicly humiliated and Huihui refuses to allow her back into the house. He eventually marries the more suitable Qiurong, achieving the settled family life he has always desired.
Ostracized by the village, Guijan and Hehe resist getting together despite their by-now-deep affection for each other. Hehe becomes a hardworking truckdriver's assistant, making loads of money. When he comes back to the village, he and Guijan marry, working together to harvest their land and
better themselves. They eventually bring electricity to the village, becoming its wealthiest citizens.
Essentially IN THE WILD MOUNTAINS is about wife swapping, a subject sporadically dealt with in such American films as BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE and a few tasteless sex comedies. Unlike these films, it concerns not the changes in sexual consciousness that affect the social order but an awareness
of economic opportunity and the desire to become part of the modern world. Hehe and Guijan are the dreamers and adventurers, ridiculed by peers for their extravagance but ultimately salutary to the welfare of all. IN THE WILD MOUNTAINS has an extremely humanistic quality studiously captures the
eccentricities of the characters without being judgmental. At times these pastoral people, with their backward customs and ancient rules, seem laughable, yet director Xueshu treats these mannerisms as fascinating rather than ludicrous. The dichotomy between the old and the new leads to the film's
most touching moments involving Hehe and Guijan. the explorers stuck between both worlds. In one scene the humor in the situation is explored--Guijan for the first time visits the city, where she behaves like a young child in a toy store around the townspeople who take such delights for granted.
Another scene depicts isolation and loneliness--a frustrated Hehe drinks too much one evening and then lashes out in the middle of the street at the city people he thinks make fun of him. IN THE WILD MOUNTAINS has much to recommend it: superb acting, beautiful photography of the mountainous
terrain, and a stimulating soundtrack. It is to be hoped that more Chinese films of such merit will make their way to Western screens.
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- Released: 1986
- Rating: NR
- Review: Set in the Shaanxi province of Northern China, IN THE WILD MOUNTAINS is a simple yet insightful tale of village life and how economic changes in the country affect even the most remote regions. Hehe and Huihui are brothers of completely opposite dispositio… (more)