Postmen in the Mountain

Postmen in the Mountains, directed by Huo Jianqi, 1997, China

Father, a postman in Hunan Province soon to retire after a life-time exemplary service as a postal worker and courier; views his career with a passion because he loves the people whose lives he knows intimately by delivering their mails; considers his job enormously meaningful and gratifying even though the pay is so meager; travels long distance on foot through mountainous terrains where there are only dirt roads; sees himself more important than local officials because the villagers living under primitive conditions depend on him to get information about the outside world (cities); marries a woman he meets in the mountains; has a leg problem due to the cold water that he has to ford so often; hopes that his son would take up his job and continue serving the people that have become so much apart of what his life is about

Son, grows up watching his father leave and return so often as an itinerary postman; in his early 20s; thinks his father’s career a noble and worthy one because he is considered as a government employee or a cadre with a salary; taken by his father on his postal rout as an initiation into adulthood, which turns out to be also an instruction to a community of people whom his father respect enormously; through endless details that seem archaic and remedial, learns a moral lesson on modern life in which better roads, telecommunication, TV, computer, and airplanes quickly change the way people structure their lives; the trip to familiarize him to the paths he will be walking on also turns out to be an opportunity for father and son to know each other better

Dog (Lao Er), a faithful, loyal, untiring and non-complaining companion and friend to Father constantly on the round; performs several functions for his loving and caring master: barks to announce to the villagers the arrival of the postman, gathers firewood, helps master cross rivers where the torrent is passable, stands on guard when master is taking a rest; called “Lao Er”, a name for second male child in any Chinese family, which shows the importance it has to the master

Mother, lives in the mountains before she is married; meets father when a girl who injured her leg one day and gets carried to the hospital on the back of this man she later would marry; even now lives in town with her husband, still often misses the life in the mountains and tells her son that people in the mountains are descents of gods and fairies close to heaven, and that living there is as comfortable and natural as putting one feet into one ‘s own shoes; self-effacing and unassuming, supportive and good natured about her husband’s absence when he has to be on the postal round;

Wu Po, a blind old lady who lives all by herself in the mountainous region (son dead); the post master makes it his own business to check in on her every now and then, and delivers letters that he makes her believe are from her grandson who in reality has long stopped writing and caring for her once he moved in to the city; reads to her what he thinks she expects to hear from her grandson; introduces to her his son as someone who’ll continue to deliver her letters


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