When Night Falls
PRODS Shu Kei, Ying Liang, Xu Qian-chun
SCR Ying Liang
CAM Ryuji Otsuka
ED Tong Wai-wing
PROD DES Yao Yu
PROD CO Jeonju International Film Festival
One of the most powerful topical dramas produced in China comes from one of the key young independent directors of the last ten years: Ying Liang. In 2008, a young man named Yang Jia accused the Shanghai police of falsely arresting him for the theft of a bicycle, then abusing him during interrogation. After seeking redress in vain, he walked into a local police station and stabbed six policeman to death. The case became a cause célèbre online in China (and the subject of a documentary by Ai Weiwei), although media coverage was strictly controlled. Yang was sentenced to death and executed. During his trial, his mother Wang Jingmei was committed to a "security" mental hospital under a false name for 143 days. She was only released after the trial, on the eve of his execution.
Ying Liang chooses to centre his fictionalized version of this incident on Wang Jingmei, played with moving authority and moral force by the independent Chinese producer Nai An. We see her just after her release from hospital, and follow her as she learns of the case, and then the execution. Ying’s approach couldn’t be further from melodrama. Amidst precisely framed long still shots of dark interiors, on the streets near her home, and in a courtyard scene that is utterly chilling in its Kafka-esque menace, Wang persists, gently, implacably, seeking the truth, and justice for her son. Ying’s cool camera and subdued lighting make palpable the oppressive atmosphere underlying the bleak inevitability of state power. But at the same time, Ying suggests the presence, invisible but just palpable, of a moral world struggling to assert itself.
— Shelly Kraicer