Black Coal, Thin Ice from Chinese writer-director Diao Yi’nan won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2014. This movie is a coal black noir thriller with blade sharp insights into the other world that other world that is modern China.
Films and television generally do little more than lazily reflect and build upon the shared viewpoints and conventions of a culture. So if you’re used to the usual tired conventions of western TV thrillers, Black Coal, Thin Ice should give you a different cultural perspective.
Life, death and serial killers are different in China, so western visual conventions just don’t apply. True Detective Season One may have stood out for it’s character development and narrative originality, but you have to look to innovative filmmakers in other cultures to understand that conventions are only conventions and really innovative cinema means looking at the world in a completely new way.
Black Coal, Thin Ice offers a whole new visual language for noir thrillers, and you can already imagine the sanitised Hollywood remake.
If you’ve visited almost any part of China apart from the great urban centres of Shanghai and Beijing, you’ll already understand that most urban Chinese people generally live hard lives in cramped and grime-encrusted rooms.
They tend to have to work hard and even police detectives can look like they only take a bath every other week, and regularly dress in the same clothes they slept in. Some of the story takes place in a dry-cleaners, but very few of the characters here wear freshly laundered clothes.
Black Coal, Thin Ice offers a whole new visual language for noir thrillers, and you can already imagine the sanitised Hollywood remake which would westernise and streamline the narrative and become just another vehicle for an established star. The film’s early shocking shoot-out scene will be lost to convention.
In Black Coal, Thin Ice no one is clean, everyone is guilty in his or her own way, and no one wins at the game of life. For some this is a film that may have too much reality.