RAS Film

Li Room at the Radisson Collection Hotel, Xing Guo Shanghai

Black Coal, Thin Ice

The RAS is pleased to announce the next film screening: on 24 September, we will watch a stylistic Chinese detective noir: Black Coal, Thin Ice, written and directed by renowned and talented Diao Yinan (刁亦男).

In Northern China’s Heilongjiang province, packages of dismembered body parts are found in coal mines. Zhang Zili and his team are assigned to investigate the case. The suspects are quickly located, and the victim is identified to be Liang Zhijun, husband to a local laundry worker, Wu Zhizhen.

Five years later, estranged by his divorce, Zhang becomes a drunken factory security guard. One day he encounters his previous colleagues and learns that two additional murders happened with the same modus operandi, which links it to Wu. He becomes intrigued and starts to follow her. Sleuthing turns into awkward courtship. In a cold, eerie night, on a skating trail, his pursuit of Wu leads him to a place in between the realms of fantasy and reality.

China has a long history of making its own whodunit films, but it was Diao’s daring debut that turned the heads of international critics. Diao spent eight years writing the script, and upon his third draft, he made it into a film. The plot is full of twists, sometimes convoluted yet intelligent. A suspenseful case investigation keeps viewers puzzled until the very end. A cinematographic beauty, choreographed by Dong Jinsong, imbues the film with a curious atmosphere that feels menacing yet alluring, dark yet mesmerizing. It is a visual masterpiece, blending traditional film noir sensibility with a bleak Northern Chinese setting to stunning effect. A tinge of absurd humour and alien oddity amuses the audience throughout. The film won the Golden Bear at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival in 2014. Actor Liao Fan’s vivid portrayal of Zhang won him the Silver Bear for Best Actor. Dong Jinsong was nominated at Berlin, and received the Best Cinematography Award at the 8th Asia Pacific Film Festival.

RSVP: bookings@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn