Original title: 颐和园
Director: Lou Ye
Runtime: 140 min
Country: China, France
Language: Mandarin, German with English subtitles
Rating: R21 (Sexual Content)
“It was like falling in love. And then after ‘89, people felt like they had lost something, like they had broken up with a lover.”
— Lou Ye
Summer Palace is a transgressive romantic epic that converges the complexities of love with political radicalisation and frustrated aspirations. Centering on Yu Hong, a young woman who leaves her rural hometown to move to Beijing for university in the 1980s, the film traces her sexual and political awakening through diaristic recounting and realities of youth. Along the way, she falls in love with the charismatic and ambitious Zhou Wei, a fellow student who shares her interests in literature and art. As the relationship deepens, they negotiate the headiness of growing up in a time of profound change and uncertainty, as China undergoes dramatic social and political transformations.
Against the backdrop of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Lou Ye’s sensual and disjunctive visual style captures the poignancy and restlessness of young love, while confronting questions of collective memory and identity in contemporary China.
* Due to a lack of optimal theatrical screening materials, this film will be projected using the best material that is currently available.
Coming of Rage: Asian Youth & Politics on Screen runs from 2 – 25 June 2023. See the full programme here.
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