Zhang yimou’s coming home: A depoliticized melodrama adapted from a scar literature novel

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Zhang Yimou's 2014 blockbuster Coming Home (Guilai) displays many characteristics of the film melodrama genre, such as, hyperbole and excessive emotionalism. It also engages with areas of unusual human suffering and ethical encounters during specific historical and political contexts such as the socialist revolutions of Maoist China. However, one particularly stereotypical feature of melodrama - extravagant and intense moral polarization - is a notable omission in this movie. This essay contends that Coming Home exhibits the continuing attitudes of Zhang Yimou toward historical and political sensitive topics and themes, which are best exemplified by his filmic adaptations of famous writers novels. In his adaptation of the American based Chinese writer Yan Geling's novel, The Criminal Lu Yanshi (Lufan Yanshi 2011) into Coming Home, a melodramatic metamorphosis is created in order to further the depoliticizing and commercializing trend in his filmic world. This trend combines exaggerated emotions and rhetorical profligacies; however, it is devoid of critical moral judgments, and is thus accepted and welcomed by both the public and political conservatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-291
Number of pages17
JournalThe New Review of Film and Television Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Coming Home
  • Film adaptation
  • Melodrama
  • Moral claim
  • Scar Literature
  • Zhang Yimou

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