Blind Shaft

Blind Shaft, directed by Li Yang, 2003, China

Yuan Fengming, a 16 year-old boy and a high school student living in China’s rural area, with father always away as a coal miner to support the family; in order to alleviate the financial burden, seeks works that would help pay tuition for himself and his younger sister; agrees to be “adopted” by two adult strangers so as to work in a coal mine as a relative of theirs; grateful for their kindness, he works his best in the mine to please his “Uncle” who seems to genuinely care for him; washes his hands before meals and reads before going to bed only to earn him scorn from his “guardians” and fellow coal-miners with no aspiration other than making money; reaches his puberty and needs initiation into the adult world; shocked by but survives the ugliness and human degradation in the real world;

Mr. Yuan (middle) Fengming’s father; leaves wife and two kids (14 and 16) behind and works as a coal miner and sends money home whenever he can; misses his son terribly who needs money for his high school education; it is through the reference of two strangers that he comes to work in the mine, who introduced him as blood relative to one of them; brutally murdered by his “brother” deep at the dark bottom of the shaft; his death is viewed by mine bosses as a nuisance, who are willing to pay 30,000 yuan to his surviving “brother” as compensation for this accident that inconveniences them;

Song Jinming, a man in his 40s, married and with school age kids to support; joins his partner in crime to murder unsuspecting coal miners and collect compensation money as the relatives of the deceased; conscience tormented when realizing that Fengming, the target of their next scam, is still as child and none other than the son of Mr. Yuan whom they have murdered earlier; guilt smitten, he tries to postpone the time when he has to kill his “niece” only to arouse suspicion and bitter resentment in his partner hoping to see the boy turn into cash as soon as possible; changes his mind when the time comes for him to act and dies in the mine with his partner;

Tang Zhaoyang, also in his 40s with a family to support; feels perfectly at ease with murdering fellow coal miners; cries quite convincingly and on demand when pretending to have lost a dear “brother” that he just killed in cold blood like Mr. Yuan; has the eyes of a predator who knows every act of his business by heart, and has come to grips with what he must say and do to support his way of life that allows him to eat in fine restaurants and visit prostitutes in “massage parlors;” unscrupulous when it comes to killing the prey and says “I’ll get rid of anyone in my way;” the two con men and their existence as hard-core criminals remind us of Hollywood films such as Fargo and No Country for Old Men that reflect on American society in which many are driven by greed;


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