2007 // China // Yang Li // November 14, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
Conceptually, Yang Li's terrifying, exhausting Blind Mountain is a stone's throw from Deliverance, save that his heroine, Bai Xuemei (Huang Lu) blunders into her nightmare ordeal not via foolish adventurism, but rather naïveté at the hands of vile predators. Li dives into the topic of rural sex slavery in China—"bride purchasing" is the polite euphemism—with an unblinking need to show every sadistic, ugly jot. His approach invites squirming, but only because there's no inkling that Li is exaggerating the horror of the general reality with his fictional specifics. Blind Mountain is the sort of film that's not really "entertaining" in the least, but nonetheless harrowing and sobering. Ferocious and narratively merciless, it takes us deep inside the tribulations of Bai's kidnapping, rape, and enslavement by a family of barbaric farmers, emphasizing not just the harsh physical details but also the young woman's inner hell. All the more remarkable, then, that Li achieves this focus while indulging a fascination with the miserable gray-green landscape of China's impoverished countryside. The film's bleak naturalism calls attention to the story's inertness—in 95 minutes, not much truly happens—but this too is a part of the film's horror, one that paints escape as an illusion.