Fire on the Plain
(Ping yuan shang de mo xi)
Zhou Dongyu, Liu Haoran, Mei Ting,
In this drama set in the bitter winter landscape of China’s industrial northeast in 1997, Shu, the taciturn son of a local gangster, and Fei, the introspective daughter of a factory worker, conspire to flee their desperate lives as a serial killer runs rampant, targeting cab drivers in their hometown. On Christmas Eve, the young lovers’ secret rendezvous hits an unexpected dead end, causing a ripple effect into a near future neither of them foresaw. Balancing family melodrama and hard-boiled film noir, veteran cinematographer Zhang Ji’s auspicious directorial debut luxuriates in a Chinese mindset of fatalism, reconciliation, and scarcity, reminiscent of executive producer/director Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice (2015) and The Wild Goose Lake (2019).