Diao Yinan-The Lake of the Wild Goose

ethnic china

Diao Yinan-The Lake of the Wild Goose

In short, a film to watch and enjoy. An original plot, very well handled, moves the protagonists through degraded urban environments, in which the mastery of the artistic team manages to endow a naive beauty.

The action begins at a railway station on a rainy night. A man with a scar on his face paces nervously among the pilasters supporting the structure. A woman arrives, takes out a cigarette, and asks him for a light. Then she asks him, «Are you Zhou Zenong?». They do not know each other, it is the first time they meet. To this encounter refers the original title «Encounter at the South Station», and apart from the commercial motives (how exotic is the wild goose!) I think the original title is more suggestive, I would paraphrase Gonzalo Suarez and I would dare to say. «The story begins every time someone like you meets a stranger at the station».

 From the first scenes of the film we already know that we find Jingsong as cinematographer and that he will manage to give a poetic tone to any scene, no matter how miserable the environment in which it takes place, and his art does not disappoint at any time, because the film, developed in the most sordid environments of the city, does not lose at any time that poetic glow that makes the narration of the events in a work of art. 

She has been sent by his friends to help. When she asks him what happened, the narration unfolds. The rivalries between two gangs of motorcycle thieves who have friendly divided up their territory in the city explode when a member of one of them pulls out a gun and shoots the boss of the other in the knee. The boss tries to calm things down by proposing that the allocation of the areas of operation be decided by a motorcycle theft competition, but in the process, rivalries break out, the shooter ends up dead, and his boss Zenong, accidentally killing a policeman. Now the entire city police force is on the lookout for him.

At the station, they consider fleeing, but it is closely guarded by the police. Zenong, wounded and isolated from his family, can only count on the help of this stranger. He does not intend to flee, but to make the 300,000 yuan reward offered for his surrender go to his ex-wife and son. A first attempt to contact her ends in tragedy.

The film then becomes a three-way race, with Zenong trying to find a way to stay alive so that the reward can reach his son, the gangsters who know him trying to get their hands on all or part of the money, and the police trying to capture him as soon as possible.

Wild Goose Lake, on the outskirts of the city, is a wild world, where neither the rules of society nor those of humanity apply. Miserable trades, always halfway to legality, have made the lake their field of action. This is where part of the film takes place.

In the midst of a world where betrayal is the norm, and each protagonist seems willing to do anything to achieve their goals, no one thinks that some people can honor their word, and their identity is not revealed until the end of the film.

In this work Diao Yinan enters again in that environment, no longer humble, but degraded in which he seems to move so naturally, offering the viewer shocking scenes. From his hand, we take a journey into the heart of China’s poverty, a poverty that still, despite the country’s great progress, is the livelihood of a significant percentage of the population. Poverty is not only an economic situation but a different social perception, which provides the viewer with scenes of heartbreaking realism.

The work runs with a very well structured time, and if it is already showing throughout its development a mastery in the story, it manages to create an emotion and suspense where the end, although it seems predictable, is getting more and more entangled, as if reality, once it takes shape, resists to disappear, as the very existence of Zhou Zenong (Ge Hu), the protagonist.

Ge Hu is masterful in his character, he knows his fate marked by the bad luck of having killed a policeman, and not a member of the rival gang that threatened his life as he thought, and the play seems only the road to a profitable death.

Gwei Lunmei, repeating with Diao Yinan, improves on her performance from Back Coal, as here she shares the lead with Ge Hu. She seems invested with a magical air that allows her to move through the most sordid environments without being contaminated. Always enigmatic, like the characters of the great tragedies, she endures a difficult role until the end.

The film has received numerous awards, including Best Cinematography to Dong Jingsong at the Asia Film Awards of the Asia Film Critics Association, in addition to several other international awards, and the truth is that this artist is making his photography a synonym of quality, and Diao Yinan also received the award of the Chinese Critics Association and the Asian Critics Association. It was also nominated at both the Cannes and San Sebastian Film Festivals but did not win any major awards here.

In short, a film to watch and enjoy. An original plot, very well handled, moves the protagonists through degraded urban environments, in which the mastery of the artistic team manages to endow a naive beauty.

Technical details

Original title: 南方车站的聚会- Encounter at the South Station…

Duration: 1h, 53min.

Year: 2019

Directed by Diao Yinan

Screenplay by Diao Yinan.

Cinematography by Dong Jingsong.


Ge Hu as Zenong Zhou

Gwei Lun-Mei as Aiai Liu

Fan Liao as Captain Liu

To cite this post: Ceinos-Arcones, Pedro, "Diao Yinan-The Lake of the Wild Goose," in Ethnic China, 6 junio 2021, https://ethnic-china.com/diao-yinan-the-lake-of-the-wild-goose/.

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