​'The Shadowless Tower' explores family bonds in Beijing

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 27, 2023
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Award-winning art house film "The Shadowless Tower," which tackles relationships and feelings among Beijing residents, is set for release nationwide on Oct. 27.

Cast and crew of "The Shadowless Tower" pose for a photo at the movie's premiere in Beijing, Oct. 27, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Great Luck Films]

In the film, actor Xin Baiqing plays Gu Wentong, a poet-turned-food critic trying to reconnect with his long-estranged father. Along the way, he meets and bonds with a photographer at work named Ouyang Wenhui, played by actress Huang Yao, as they discover local eateries. Haunted by his father abandoning him when he was a young boy, Gu's journey leads him to reflect on his own roles as a father, son and partner.

In "The Shadowless Tower," the historic White Pagoda in Beijing, which dates back around 700 years, serves as a poignant metaphor for the characters' emotions and choices. When Gu Wentong, a native Beijinger, encounters the out-of-town Ouyang Wenhui at the White Pagoda Temple, they discover they are both rootless souls grappling with painful memories and searching for a sense of belonging. The film interweaves old Beijing with the new, portraying a city that is both intimate and unfamiliar. This juxtaposition highlights the characters' feelings of alienation, wanderlust and solitude. 

Director Zhang Lyu revealed that he has lived in Beijing for over 30 years, forging a deep emotional bond with the city. While much of Beijing has transformed over time, the area surrounding the White Pagoda Temple remains as he recalls, evoking memories of old friends. This nostalgia motivated him to create a film related to the pagoda. He also explained the meaning of "shadowless" in the title, saying that it represents "the abrupt voids we face in our lives."

The film's premiere was specially arranged to be held on Oct. 21 inside the White Pagoda Temple, where it was screened for local residents and young people. The director mentioned that during filming the camera always revolved around the White Pagoda, but he never dreamed that they would screen the movie inside the temple itself. 

Meeting the audience in such a unique setting evoked strong emotions in the lead actor, Xin Baiqing. Although he grew up in Beijing, he confessed to occasionally feeling lost in the city's streets. Actress Huang Yao described her role as a "Beipiao," a Chinese term referring to young migrants in Beijing — a character who drifts and flutters about. She believes many young people currently living in Beijing will resonate with this portrayal.

At the premiere, the film's executive producer Huang Jianxin insightfully remarked, "Director Zhang Lyu is actually talking about the emotions that life suppresses deep within our hearts, and he peels these feelings layer by layer."

A promotional poster for "The Shadowless Tower." [Image courtesy of Emei Film Group]

The poetic and emotionally profound film "The Shadowless Tower," written and directed by Zhang Lyu and featuring Xin, Huang and the legendary actor Tian Zhuangzhuang, garnered five awards in April at the 13th Beijing International Film Festival, including best screenplay and best leading actor. Additionally, at the 10th Silk Road International Film Festival which concluded at the end of September, it won best picture and best cinematography. The film also received critical acclaim after screening at the Shanghai International Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival and New York Film Festival.

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