Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    I've just watched "The Goddess" and was enormously impressed. Ruan Ling-Yu plays the part of a prostitute who sells her body to support her child and give him an education. Her magnificent performance dominates the film. With a wonderful dignity which completely avoids melodrama, she conveys a complexity of emotional dimensions through her facial expressions. Thus, we see her tenderness as she cradles her baby, the terror when the "Boss" threatens to take the child if she doesn't follow his orders, the joyful delight when her son gets the chance to escape the filth of the society which victimizes her by going to school. At other times Ruan conveys anger, bitterness, frustration, and sorrow. A particularly moving scene is the moment she pleads with the old principal to keep her child at school despite the objections of the more "respectable" parents. This scene also focuses the themes of vulnerability and victimization which permeate the film's societal vision. In an excellent commentary to the film, Richard J. Meyer points up Ruan's emphasis on such themes as Poverty, Sufferng and Class Division through the persona of the Strong woman and mother. All these ideas are clearly and memorably crystalised in "The Goddess". Two contrasting figures are the Boss, the prostitute's Pimp, who victimizes and uses her for his own greed and the gentle, socially aware principal who realizes her inner dignity and heroic worth as she struggles against the restrictions of a "toxic environment". The conclusion dramatizes the heroically sacrificial personality of the mother. Sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing the Boss, she accepts the offer of the old principal to adopt and educate her son. She resigns herself stoically to the joy of knowing he will escape the societal trap of poverty and degradation which has destroyed her life. There are wonderful moments in this film. At one point she cuddles her child. She rocks him almost in time with the inexorable swings of the pendulum of the clock which will send her out on to the streets. When the Boss threatens to sell her child, the camera frames through the triangle formed by the aggressively spread legs of the Boss as she huddles on the floor protectively clasping her baby. It's a scene one will never forget. The film has an absolutely wonderful piano accompaniment both composed and played by Kevin Purrone. He skillfully blends various motifs to create atmosphere and convey character details superbly. Tony Raynes put it well when he said:

    " . . .this is the kind of film that demands a rewriting of the film history books. . . Free of moralism and melodrama, expressively composed and lit and very naturalistically acted, this is a film of startling modernity."