Shower as A Symbol for Community
Many film directors today are commenting on the coldness, and disconnectedness of modern societies. The problem in these societies is that people live individual lives that are focused on making money, a false value perpetuated by capitalism. As the characters in Zhang Yang's film Shower realize, life is much more valuable when it is connected to other people through meaningful relationships that lead them to care about each other. In Shower, a bathhouse owned by the main character's father Lao Liu, represents community and its many roles among its customers.
On the surface, it is obvious that the bathhouse is a community. Everybody is from the same neighborhood and knows each other by name. The customers have been going to the bathhouse for so long that they consider it an important part of their life. This is clear near the end of the film before it is about to be torn down. Some of the frequent customers ask themselves where they will go to have a hot bath or cricket matches, but they are really worried about loosing [losing] the friendship that was present within the community of the bathhouse. Da Ming, the main character, learns the importance of community perhaps more than the other customers because of the style of his life before experiencing the bathhouse. Da Ming is a successful businessman living in Shenzen with his wife. At first he thinks that the idea of a bathhouse is rather useless, but after observing first hand all the benefits of the bathhouse's community, he takes his father's place after he dies to keep it running. In the end, Da Ming understands the difference between his life and his fathers and decides that a life connected into a community is much more fulfilling.
Besides providing a community of friendship, the bathhouse provides many secondary functions as well. When the members of the bathhouse community face problems they cannot resolve themselves, the bathhouse is able to help them. When He Zhang owes money to a bunch of thugs, he seeks shelter in the bathhouse. Da Ming gives money to He Zhang to pay his debt which in turn spares him the consequences he sought to escape by going to the bathhouse in the first place. Da Ming's mentally retarded brother, Erming, is an employee at the bathhouse. Erming would not be capable of working somewhere else, but he is accepted as a valued member of the bathhouse community. Erming works hard greeting customers and preparing the bathhouse in the morning and ultimately is able to convince Da Ming to keep the bathhouse running after his father dies. The bathhouse is also the setting of the confrontation of Zhang Jinhou's problems with his wife. Their fragile relationship as a result of his impotence is cured by taking a bath together in the bathhouse. These important problems in the lives of customers would not have been solved without the help of the bathhouse.
Da Ming is able to observe each of these problems and how they are resolved. After Lao Liu dies, Da Ming takes on the role of father figure towards Erming. They jog together and fool around in the bathhouse as Erming and Lao Liu used to do. Da Ming truly cares for his brother as a result of experiencing the bathhouse community. He did not feel as connected to anybody in his old life because the focus of it was on money and not other people. Da Ming has learned that life in a caring community is much more important than the goals of his old life. Shower is a lesson for all modern societies to be careful about what they value most. Community must become the center point of society in order for its people to live happier, more fulfilling lives.
In the first scene of this film, we see He Zheng enter a mechanical shower in a modern section of Beijing. He simply stands, expressionless, with his arms outstretched while mechanical brushes scrub his body and automated soap dispensers squirt on cue. Contrast this image with that of Master Liu as he rubs one of his customer's backs. He is smiling and so is the customer. If I had to pick one word to summarize this film, I would pick touch. "Touch" is what we see in the bathhouse, occurring in many ways, and this sense of touch is what this film's director Zhang Yang wants China to retain even as it continues to demolish old city districts (such as the one that the bathhouse occupied) in the name of progress.
Using the above scene as an example, where does the audience see a sense of touch. Certainly it is not in the mechanical shower, which is the antithesis of any sort of personal touch. As far as the bathhouse goes, I've already mentioned the physical touch of Mater Liu towards the aches of his customers. But there is another sort of "ache" that Master Liu "touches." I think about the man who is having marital problems that comes to Mater Liu for advice. Master Liu touches him through the advice that he gives. Also consider the debtor/customer whom Master Liu protects when a gang of men arrives to beat him up. Again we see this personal touch that Master Liu graces every one of his customers with.
There were a few shots included in this film of people in the modern Shenzhen where Da Ming works, and as this idea of touch was rolling through mind I noticed the absence of touch amongst the people in these shots. All of the people seemed to be in such as hurry, a hurry that is exemplified by the need for a mechanical shower. Everyone is too busy even to concern themselves with a proper shower. Here the audience sees an absence of touch, whereas in the bathhouse we see an abundance.
I believe that this theme of touch can be directly applied to China as we see it today. Modern China is a nation that is quickly industrializing, tearing down the old and replacing it with the new. But the message that is conveyed in "Shower" is that as China moves forward, it can not forget its sense of touch. This means that China can not forget those among it who lose their homes and livelihoods for the sake of modernization. The men of the bathhouse in "Shower" speak of opening another bathhouse in another section of the city, but I think that the director is telling the audience not to forget these people. It means that the Chinese people (and anyone living in the modern world) should not forget the small pleasures in life as well as the desire to be success or have a high paying job. Taking the time to talk to one another, keep in touch with family, or enjoy a nice bath is important too.
This is the lesson that Da Ming (who represents the modern Chinese people) learns in this film. When he first comes home it is because he thinks that his father has died. He initially refuses to take a long bath (which his father suggests) instead opting for a quick shower. He also sees the work that his father does to be degrading, especially from his position as a successful businessman. But as the film progresses, he begins to care about his family and the business they run. He sees the sense of touch that his father gives his customers and recognizes why it is so important. There is more than one way you can touch somebody, and this film seeks to preserve that both on a national and a personal level.
Bathhouse, A Retreat from Modern Life
Much like Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie of Fox's The Simple Life, Da Ming of Shower also finds himself thrust into a forgotten and foreign environment. After moving to Shenzhen, the commercial capital of China, Da Ming has totally forgotten about the simplistic life he desperately wanted to escape from as a child. Da Ming never understood why his father loved his demeaning job at the bathhouse, but upon the prodigal son's return, Da Ming has matured enough to notice the significant advantages the simple life holds over his urban existence.
The bathhouse represents a retreat from the busy life of most patrons.
In city life, people are driving by in cars or passing each other on the
sidewalk with little to no human interaction. The bathhouse is a place
where men can get together and converse, argue, and experience a sense
of community. Da Ming comes from Shenzhen, where everyone strives for
selfish profit and barely takes time to notice any one but themselves.
For example, even husbands and wives are hardly able to communicate, as
evidenced by Da Ming's terse misunderstood phone calls to his home in
Shenzhen. In the bathhouse, conversation is easy and community is accessible.
Da Ming begins to realize, with the help of his handicapped brother Er
Ming, that money isn't everything. By watching the close bond between
Er Ming and their father, Da Ming realizes he sacrificed friendship, family,
and community during his move to Shenzhen.
The most unfortunate aspect of the situation is Da Ming's own blindness to his situation. If Er Ming hadn't sent the misleading postcard hinting at Liu's death, Da Ming would never have realized how boring his life was. In the city, Da Ming gradually lost his concern for people and pleasure without ever taking notice of these dangerous side-effects. People in the city tend to rearrange their goals toward profit in hopes of blocking out their own subtle unhappiness and when Da Ming sees how his life could have been at the bathhouse, he notices how badly Shenzhen has affected his meaning of happiness. Upon his return to the bathhouse, Da Ming realizes all that he has thrown away in favor of Shenzhen. With the help of his father and brother, he sees how much simple lives have to offer. Even though he goes back to his successful life in the city at the end of the movie, he learns from his experience and returns with a new set of priorities involving family and fun over individualism and money.
Baths are Relaxing
In Shower director Zhang Yang explores rural versus urban value systems
as well as the role of family in modern China. These themes have been
covered extensively by Chinese filmmakers in recent years. However, Yang
manages to present them in a fresh and appealing way. Shower is a triumph
of comedic drama. From the film's opening scenes this family draws viewers
in. Throughout this film the bath is a central symbol. Indeed the bath
is virtually omnipresent as much of the story takes place in Master Liu's
The ultimate message of this film is an anti-urban and therefore an anti-capitalist one. The filmmaker has condemned city life for its lack of human contact and dignity. However on another level this film is simply a commentary on the importance of family loyalty and unity, a uniquely Chinese message. Both of these themes intertwine to give this movie its unique voice and force.
In the film Shower, the focus settles on the interaction of males of all ages at the local bathhouse, specifically the interaction of the owner, Lao Liu, and his two sons. The sons could not differ more, as the older brother Da Ming is an astute businessman who has come home only because he thinks his father has passed. While the younger brother, Er Ming, happily suffers with a mental handicap, but remains eternally attached to his father. Lao Liu and Er Ming represent the center of their little community, and while Liu is often sought after for advice as a mediator and confidant among the male patrons, Er Ming is equally loved despite his obvious shortcomings. Everyone enjoys Er Ming's laughter, and zeal for life.
While father and younger brother have been quietly living at the old bathhouse, the older brother thrived in the expanding industry of new China. Upon receiving a confusing letter, which Da Ming interprets as his younger brother sitting by the body of his father, Da Ming hurries home. On returning home, he feels alienated, as he no longer fits in the old China and the comforts of the bathhouse. Feelings of alienation among men are common, but this movie represents the ability for men, especially friends, to mend fences, admit problems, and come together as a group.
This underlying theme can be highlighted beyond the central three characters,
and found in the interaction between the secondary characters in the bathhouse.
First, there are the two cricket fighters, who engage in daily matches
between their pets. One eventually blames the other for cheating and subsequently
refuses to compete for a long time, but this festering wound in the old
friends' relationship is solved. After tragedy hits the cheating man in
the form of a wall collapsing and killing all of his crickets, the accuser
reestablishes his bonds with the other, and they are displayed laughing
at the bathhouse and videotaping the demise of the neighborhood. Another
example of male interaction in this sacred place deals with Zhang Jinhou,
who has a hot and cold relationship with his wife. Eventually their domestic
dispute boils over into the bathhouse, where she dares not enter, and
he hides where only men can see him. The reason for the dispute, Zhang
reveals to the owner and his two sons, and it represents a problem on
men can encounter. His impotence becomes a secret between the men, which
they help to cure through their friendship and advice.
The reconciliation of father to older son, and the respect of his responsibility as competent older brother by Da Ming conclude the look at the relationships of the men. Da Ming, who feels resented and guilty for leaving, slowly adapts to the old life and learns to respect his father and the shortcomings of his brother. All of the men at the bathhouse, show Da Ming what it is to be a man, willing to take on the burdens of his father and his little brother, as well as doing right by the men who surround him. Shower can be read as a coming of age for Da Ming, where he casts off the selfishness of boyhood and embraces manhood, as manhood is more than making money. It is responsibility and humility among your peers, as well as acceptance.
Showering: An Act of Communalism
|Community is all about relationships. You cannot have a successful community
without successful relationships. The movie ��Shower��, directed by Zhang
Yang, takes place mostly in a bath house in old Beijing; and shows the community
and relationships of people who both work at and visit the bath house. The
relationships shown are central to the old ��communal�� way of life, and in
direct opposition to the new ��independent�� way. In the new society everyone
is left to fend for themselves as best they can; but in the old, people
help and take care of one another.
The main character (Da Ming) lives and works in Shenzhen, a very modern and independent city. His father (Old Liu) and younger brother (Er Ming) run a bath house in the old district of Beijing. (This represents the old society and values) In the beginning of the movie we see a ��modern�� shower, a machine that you can pay quarters for a shower of 5, 10 or 15 minutes. You go in and it's very much like a car wash; you're sprayed with water and soap, then the spinning brushes come and scrub you, and you��re rinsed and dried. This method of showering is reflective of the fast-paced and modern way of life in Shenzhen. This is contrasted with the bath house that's run by Old Liu and Er Ming; a true traditional bath house. At the family bath house most people take a long, relaxing bath, as opposed to a shower, and have one of the workers (frequently Old Liu himself) scrub their backs for them.
Much can be inferred about the society from the way in which they regard bathing. The new, ��modern�� society is very independent and always in a hurry to get things done (as seen by their mechanical method of showering). The old society greatly valued community, and took the time to appreciate it. The bath house was not just a place where you could clean yourself, but also it was a place to socialize (as evidenced by the two cricket-fighters). The bath house community however, offered more than just friendship, but gave help and support to various clients. For example: Zhang Jinhou was having some issues with his wife after she was seen running down the street after a thief naked. Old Liu arranged for them to meet after the bath house was closed and take a bath together, which helped Jinhou get over his problem. He Zheng was another client who benefited from the bath house community; he used the bath house as an escape from the money lenders who were trying to get him for the money he owed them. Old Liu told them that they could not bother his customers inside his bath house. These are just a few examples of the ways in which community is not present in the ��modern�� society and Shower is trying to show that those old values are still very relevant and useful to us even today. Da Ming sees this and in the end of the movie he decides that he will choose the values of the old society over those of the new. This is demonstrated by how he decides not to leave his mentally retarded brother at the institute, but chooses to take care of him himself. He values the family bond; even though his brother may ��weigh him down�� he still takes care of him. This along with the many ways that all the other problematic characters were helped reaffirms the old values�� validity.
Stepping Into Water: Re-Integration
| Shower is a film that has many different levels to it. As the title opens
you see He Zheng entering a computerized shower. This shower was completely
automated. It washed, scrubbed and dried you, all by mechanized means. This
shower system is a symbol for modern China. The fast paced lifestyle of
modern China does not have time to take a bath, let alone spend a whole
day in a bathhouse.
As the film progresses, the viewer finds out that Da Ming, the character that represents modern China, has a father and brother that own and operate a bathhouse. As the plot progresses, the viewer finds out the Da Ming has to re-integrate himself into the old society of China. Da Ming starts to help out at the bathhouse when his father becomes ill. During his stay at the bathhouse Da Ming experiences an interesting transition. When he first arrives, he takes a shower when there is no one around, and by the end of the movie he is taking a bath with the rest of the local bathers. This symbolizes how Da Ming is progressively re-integrating into an old tradition that he once knew.
Another interesting transitional symbol is when Da Ming buys his father the electronic massager and then later on in the film Da Ming himself is the one who massages his father. This again is how Da Ming is having a transitional phase from modern to traditional China.
On a more abstract level, the film represents how much of modern China has become disconnected with its past, this is especially evident in the aspect of community. In the modern world, the idea of community is on a worldly aspect, but in the traditional values of China, the idea of community is just the small number of people that would congregate at the local bathhouse or a town. In the modern way of life, every aspect of a person's life is very fast paced. In this fast paced lifestyle, there is no time to take a leisurely bath. I believe the film is trying to get to the point that modern China needs to embrace its traditional culture. This does not mean that they have to totally change their way of living, but just to embrace their past.
This has been an overlying theme across many films about embracing the traditional Chinese culture. This was seen in Incense, where the Buddhist monk needed the support of the people in order to keep is temple operational. In both movies the places in which symbolize the traditional culture get knocked down, literally. This is symbolizing that if the modern Chinese does not act fast and embrace their traditional culture, it will be lost forever.
Shower also touches upon the aspect that sometimes sacrifices need to be made in order to embrace the traditional culture. Da Ming had to deal with his retarded brother Er Ming. He had to change his entire way of life after that point because Er Ming was now his responsibility, whether Da Ming liked it or not. Overall the film showed audiences that traditional Chinese culture is something that cannot be lost, and that sometimes you have to immerse yourself back into the culture in order to fully appreciate it.
| Shower by Yang Zhang represents a return to the classical example of
community that is devoid from many societies today. The main character of
the story, Daming Liu, is a seemingly successful business man that has moved
from old Beijing to his new home in Shenzhen. He married and seemed to have
moved to Shenzhen mostly for making money. He returns to his old home in
old Beijing with his father and brother Erming. Daming returns because he
has received a letter from Erming and thinks that his father has died. He
goes in thinking that his father's job of running a bathhouse is dated and
even embarrassing, but he comes away changed and more focused on how important
family and community are.
Daming is a representation of a capitalist society that is focused on money and efficiency. What his father and brother Erming represent is completely different. Their focus is mostly on community and taking time to enjoy things rather than on saving time to make money. In the beginning of the movie, Daming takes showers, but his father is surprised by this as he and Erming always take baths. The two different ways of bathing represent the capitalist money making society vs. the old society focused on time taking as a value. Old Mr. Liu, Daming and Erming's father often serves his customers by scrubbing their backs. I think that this act promotes contact which helped create the strong bonds that existed within the bathhouse community.
Old Liu had many regulars at the bathhouse. Many of these regulars, such as Zhang Jinhao and He Zhang, have their own serious problems outside of the bathhouse, but the bathhouse is like a haven for them. The people inside do their best to try to help them. This is beneficial for all that regularly attend bathhouse sessions. However, there is a certain fantastic quality to the bathhouse. It is also, in ways, harmful to its attendees because it is like a world in itself that is not always realistic. The bathhouse does many good things like help develop community and build stronger relationships, but it is also more than likely the cause of Zhang Jinhao's problems with his wife and it causes Daming to lose his wife in Shenzhen. When the men enter this world, they neglect much of the outside world and this creates problems for them.
The benefits of the community outweigh the negatives though. As a result of the bathhouse, Daming is able to build much stronger relationships with his father and brother Erming. When it comes down to what's more important to him between his brother and wife, he chooses his brother. He has realized the importance of his old way of life, true community, and his family. Shower can show any society that lacks a real sense of community the importance of community and the importance of escaping to a more relaxing world.
Zhang Yang's Shower (1999) is an escapist fantasy made for the pleasure of the busy city dweller. One of the main reasons people go to the cinema is so that they can get away from their busy lives. The bathhouse is a metaphor for such a place, where people come to escape daily stress. While discussing the bathhouse, I use it more as a concept for a way of life (rather than the physical bathhouse itself), consisting of the actual bathhouse along with the people that actually make it the bathhouse. This bathhouse adopts a soft primitivistic status by depicting life as toil free. The old district of the city (that is about to be torn down) is also a wonderful setting for the film that emphasizes chronological primitivism (earlier stages of human history is better than the present).
Director Zhang uses the opening scene, of a man entering a completely
automated shower, to establish a context. According to that opening scene
we live in a fast paced and technologically advanced world where there
is no time for one to even take a shower properly. Da Ming is one such
"successful" businessman who is tricked into coming home (a
bathhouse in an old district in Beijing) by his innocent younger brother
Er Ming. Da Ming's long absence from home can be seen as modern man's
long absence from his simple past, and his return home as a re-evaluation
of this almost forgotten past. In the end, Da Ming chooses the simple
life over city life. And even though the old district is torn down Da
Ming's newfound appreciation for his family and the simple life endures.
Director Zhang criticizes our modern urban existence in the smallest details of Da Ming's behavior. While Lao Liu spends his days giving massages to people, actually interacting with them as he does so Da Ming presents his father with a battery operated massager. Da Ming also chooses to take a shower over an actual bath which shocks his father at first. The insensitivity in the phone conversations with his wife (that always end with her hanging up) also speaks negatively of our modern existence that has been completely depersonalized. In these small ways we see, the movie takes on a cathartic dimension for modern man, spiritually cleansing his soul from all the worries and strife urban life brings. It takes a movie like Shower to remind us all what it really means to be human.
Is Water Life?
Water represents something more than life, prosperity and happiness to the family in "Shower". For each character, director Zhang Yang shows how water affects the relationship these men have with one another. Through the characterization of water, "Shower" successfully shows how relationships can grow through common grounds. It achieves finality though the growth of the family and the eventual resolution of death and acceptance. "Shower" is relatable because it is a family story, it shows the struggles that most families have and the final end with respect.
Though the shots that Zhang frames are not works of art, he was able to characterize water in a realistic light. Water takes on the main role in the family and helps make their struggle more realistic. The older brother, Da Ming, casts off his reliance on water as a way of life. And in doing so, Zhang shows that he has rejected his family. He is the odd duckling in the family, even when he has a retarded brother. What makes this story successful through Daming is that he grows and learns how to appreciate what his family does. Zhang does not stint his growth in the family when it is obvious his father has given up on him. He continues to fight for his father��s respect. It is not until his father dies does he regain this respect. "Shower" is a success because it shows the growth of a son who normally should have completed his growth as a man before returning home.
Through the eyes of the younger brother, Er Ming, the viewer develops a more light hearted and sympathetic perspective to life. He does not detract anything from the more serious moments that Da Ming has; he breaks the tension with his playful nature. He is a young boy in a grown man's body. He is not the comic relief in "Shower" but he aids in making the movie more relatable. Zhang has several scenes where he plays and splashes about in the baths. "Shower" shows that not all life is serious, and that good people can make light of intense situations. Er Ming also has his serious moments, but in general, he takes the role of the ice-breaker. Through his playful nature with water, Er Ming helps shift the movie from a pure dramatic representation of the family to a more comedic, relatable feeling towards the Liu family.
What makes "Shower" a good film is its shift between genres. Zhang is able to do that through his characterization of water and the different notes it plays in the two brothers lives. On one level, in Da Ming's case, water is something to be avoided and something to run away from. But on the other hand, as seen through Er Ming, water is playful and a way of life. "Shower" is successful because it is dramatic but it is also playful. It does not put too much pressure on the viewer, and they do not become overwhelmed with the story. Zhang makes sympathy available, and "Shower" more relatable.
Traditional and Ancient China: The Saga Continues
"I've done this all my life and I do it well. You want to do big things. You want to make money. Go ahead!" These words from Master Liu to his son Da Ming are instrumental in bringing out one of the most important themes in the movie Shower - the disparities between modern and traditional China. Initially, when Da Ming goes back home to Beijing from Shenzhen, he is portrayed as a stoic character who wears suits and only takes showers rather than baths. He therefore represents the values of modern industrially and technologically advanced China. His father Master Liu, the owner of a bathhouse where Chinese men take baths, relax and commune everyday, represents ancient China. Master Liu is portrayed as a friendly, considerate and reasonable man. As seen in Master Liu's words above, Da Ming does not appreciate his father's skills as he thinks they are menial as compared to his. By using these two characters, Yang Zhang successfully exposes the challenges to modern China today because of the ridges and rivalries between new and traditional values and ideas. He does this by metaphorically showing the ridge between this Master Liu and his son due to differences in their opinions.
Yang Zhang uses the relationship between this father and his son again in order to reiterate the worldly conception that Chinese people, no matter how westernized they are, would prefer to return to a simple life under the auspices of traditional and ancient Chinese values and ideas. After his father dies, Da Ming begins to see the value in taking a bath rather than taking a shower. His action shows how Chinese people will always return to their traditional and ancient values no matter how many western influences they are exposed to. Yang Zhang therefore definitely attracts an Eastern audience by using this strategy because all of his Eastern viewers can relate to Da Ming and Master Liu's situation.
Yang Zhang attracts a western audience by making Shower a movie which is based on simple realism. The experiences and struggles of this family which are so close to reality, allow the actors to evoke emotion in the audience since they can empathize and identify with the challenges faced by this family. The long pauses in the movie which are discretely covered up with music, as opposed to typical wordy dialogue in Hollywood movies also add to the effect of realism because realistically, people do not talk all of the time without pauses in conversation.
The contrast in characters when observing Er Ming and Da Ming is another tactic used by Yang Zhang to ensure that the western audience is captivated. Er Ming is almost like a child and is very expressive of his emotions, while Da Ming is an impassive and expressionless character. Initially for Da Ming, the only connection that the two of them share is through their father but eventually, Da Ming realizes that he shares more with Er Ming than just blood. He finds that he can enjoy himself with Er Ming and when he tries to leave Er Ming at the mental institution but then realizes that he cannot part with his brother, he shows that he has an emotional attachment to his younger brother. Yang Zhang uses the relationship between the two brothers to show that no matter how different people are, they can always find common ground and learn to tolerate one another. Yang Zhang also raises a universal question when Da Ming is faced with the dilemma of either leaving Er Ming at the mental institution and returning to his wife in Shenzhen or staying in Beijing to take care of Er Ming but standing to lose his wife in the process. The question raised is that of whether one should do what he wants to do or if one should do what he is obligated to do. This attracts an audience since naturally, people are confronted with this question and in an ideal world, people do what they should do and not what they want to do but in the real world, these principles may differ. Da Ming does what he should do and stays with his brother and these are the types of "happy endings" audiences appreciate.
Shower, When the Old Meets the New
"Shower" is a film that revolves around three people within
a family. Mr. Liu, the father, who owns a traditional bathhouse and believes
water does not only wash one's body but also one's soul. Er Ming, the
younger son of Liu, who is mentally retarded, runs the bathhouse with
his father. Da Ming, the older son of Liu, who finds himself hardly fitting
into the old life, struggles between his career, his duties, and his obligations
to his family members who are retarded and old. After spending days in
the old neighborhood and experiencing the death of his father, Da Ming
finally reconnects with the older values. Although "Shower"
is said to be a film that emphasizes the simple pleasures of life, I would
still argue it is a story that criticizes the loss of tradition and humanity
caused by China's modernization under its economic reform. The film director
uses the estranged family relationship to question the modern China and
its constant strivings for progress, which result in ripping up traditional
neighborhoods and families. As people in China remove themselves from
the old and begin to embrace the modern, they start to lose their traditional
values, such as close relationships between family members. The film raises
this issue subtly but unmistakably while China is in its grip of modern
Da Ming is a successful businessman in Shenzhen, a city in the South which was considered a very prosperous economic region; the commercial center of Asia during the early 1990s. In the course of China's economic reform and modernization Shenzhen became the emblem of Chinese capitalism. As a result of the desire to achieve material success, the new phenomenon appears where a huge amount of young people from the North came to cities in the South, such as Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Moreover, after tasting the material life in the South, many decided to stay rather than go back to their hometowns. That is the reason why Da Ming has never come back home for a visit. After staying in the capitalistic South for a long time, Da Ming could not see himself fitting into the old traditional lifestyle any more. The only reason that Da Ming comes back home is because he receives a postcard from Er Ming, and interprets wrongly that his father was dead. The film director uses this "Da Ming phenomenon" to show the audience how family ties are being estranged because of modernization.
In the film, after the Mr. Liu passes away, Er Ming is watching a TV program showing the evolution and survival of beetles in nature. In the program, it says, "the old mother beetle sacrifices herself to help the young beetle continue growing up. However, after his mother's death, whether the young beetle could survive or not depends on himself." The death of the mother beetle reflects the meaning of Mr. Liu's death directly. Mr. Liu in the film represents the old traditional China, where Da Ming represents the new changes along with China's modernization. Therefore, the director uses the death of Mr. Liu as a symbol to reflect the effect of China's modernization. Under China's modernization, it is clear that traditions or old culture will gradually lose out and be replaced by the new culture of capitalism. To modernize means to sacrifice the old tradition. That is also why the bathhouse is being demolished to build a shopping mall.
The film director leaves the ending of the film as a mystery. It helps me form up the question of what would happen to Da Ming, his mentally retarded brother, Er Ming, and moreover, the whole community that has grown around the bathhouse, after the neighborhood has been paved over? This is a question that China needs to think about. What would happen once all the old traditions are being replaced by modernity? How far can China go without its traditions?
Family Lasts Forever
Shower, directed by Zhang Yang, tells a tale centered around a traditional bathhouse. The particular bathhouse featured in the story sits in old Beijing, an area due to be demolished. Despite the impending doom the bathhouse will meet, Zhang Yang weaves a web that captures hope rather than sorrow. All throughout the movie death seems as though it lies in wait for both Old Society and Old Man Liu, after all both meet an untimely demise; however, this point of view does not treat the situation with due consideration. Zhang Yang demonstrates more than this in Shower by making the statement that even though the physical may fade, the familial connection is preserved.
The most striking way in which Shower portrays this concept is represented by the reuniting of Lao Liu's family. At the movie's opening, Da Ming, first son of Lao Liu, lives in Shenzhen, on the opposite side of China from Beijing. Shenzhen's thriving economy and the opportunity for success brought him their [there]. The success came at a price, though: Da Ming's relationship with his family gradually faded. This quickly changed when Da Ming received a troubling postcard from Er Ming. A drawn picture on the postcard seemed to indicate that Lao Liu passed away. Fearing the worst, Da Ming dropped all business engagements and traveled to Beijing. The theme of death brought the family back together. Da Ming eventually started reconnecting with his family and eventually decided to live the more humble life of bathhouse employee. This powerful instance describes an instance in which an apparent disaster yields something that is pure good. Da Ming went to Beijing to mourn his father, but instead spent tender time with him and Er Ming.
In addition to affirming the spiritual, the film warns the viewer against pursuing purely physical gratification. Although He Zhang, a dreamer and schemer, counts himself as a member of the bathhouse community, he speaks of an idea to speed up the process of hygiene, a fully automated showering system. Throughout this film, He Zhang tries to jump headlong into the future, disregarding a community that contains his closest friends. The warning manifests itself in a group of loan sharks who seek him out at the bathhouse. Lao Liu could have handled the problem by letting He Zhang be taken by the loan sharks, but instead he intervenes on He Zhang's behalf. At the very least, Lao Liu offers He Zhang a safe haven; much like a home is to any family member. Also, Da Ming gives money enough to pay off the loan sharks, an act of brotherly love that again notes the superiority of family over material goods. Without the symbolic family triumph over He Zhang's desire for success, his unchecked ambitions would have resulted in his doom.
When the movie draws to a close, the bathhouse family seems all but destroyed. The community in which they live literally dies at the hands of the construction industry's grim reapers, bulldozers and wrecking balls. The father of the bathhouse family, Lao Liu, also perishes briefly before this event. Everything from every point of view lies in shambles. Ironically, though, the bond between these individuals is at its strongest point. In one of the final scenes in the movie, the former bathhouse members survey the wreckage of Old Beijing. This sea of rubble in which they are swimming seems endless, but at the same time rather insignificant. At the end of the movie, one does not long for an impermanent physical location. Rather, one embraces the immortal familial spirit which endures even the most devastating of circumstances.
Happiness Is Not Based on Money
It seems like all the Chinese movies we have watched in class are about
money. Chinese people struggle to make money, and in the movies, those
who don't have money live hard lives. After watching the Chinese films,
we can even say that Chinese people's happiness is based entirely on having
lots of money. Just like the people in the movies "Ermo," ��Blind
Shaft," "A World Without Thieves," and many others that
I will not examine, happiness is equated with money. However, the film
"Shower" directed by Zhang Yang is different in this respect.
The theme of the film "Shower" concerns the truth of life�� happiness
is not based on money.
Daming is rich. He makes a lot of money in Shenzhen. However, he is busy, seldom smiles, and has a strained relationship with his wife. His life is full of money, but he lacks true love and real happiness. He only has time for his responsibilities: he pays money for his father's neon lights without saying a word, he buys a massage machine for his father instead of massaging for his father, and he often talks on phone reassuring the company and his wife in Shenzhen that he will return in a few days. Each time he tries to leave his father and brother, problems arise. Daming's brother, Erming, who is not as financially successful as Daming, lives a simple, but happy life. So do Old Liu and the customers. Although they are not rich, they are always happy. Their happiness is not based on money, and also their sadness is not because of money. All they need is a settled and happy life and a good relationship with their family and friends.
In fact, money is mentioned once during this film. The young person,
He Zheng, who is idle and lazy, is chased by others because of the money
he owes. In this case, it is seen that money causes many problems in life.
At last, He Zheng finds a job and starts working seriously; he fixes the
neon lights voluntarily. Eventually he pursues a settled job and a quality
life instead of only money. This means when people no longer exist solely
to make money, they will live much happier lives.
The Future is Filled with Angry Women
At first glance, Shower is a movie about the dying art of bath houses
and the community therein. However, the boys�� club of bath houses is presented
in stark contrast to the outside world, in particular, the absence of
women. When I first saw the film, I resonated with the metaphors for modernity
in the car wash set up of the first shower clip, and the quote that ��There
is no fun in the future,�� from the man who is ready to give up playing
crickets once he settles into a new high-rise apartment; but as I mulled
the movie over in my mind, the lack of women became a pertinent issue,
not just for the movie, but for the culture from which the movie came.
In each case, the woman is representative of modernity. Zhang Jinhou's wife disgraced him by chasing a thief naked through the streets to get back her gold necklace, representing the shift from care for public appearance to care for things of monetary value. Embracing her, therefore, would somehow be embracing this evil modernity that has no shame. With Da Ming, his wife is the symbol of technology itself: the cell phone. That is all she is, just a small metal object with an antenna and voice recorder and speaker. She is so distant that she does not even know, until the end, that her husband's brother is retarded. When she hears, she morphs into the dial tone of hanging up; the noise of a modern society that is not willing to listen to the truth of love and relationships, only the truth of success.
In the end, we do not know the future for Da Ming and the void on the other side of the cell phone. But there is hope in Zhang Jinhou's relationship as the bath house brings them together. Perhaps a woman entering the sacred world of the bath house was the beginning of the end of the "old way," because all women seem to be in the film are symbols of a power-hungry careless modernity. I sympathize with the men who are sad to have lost the game of crickets in a world where money makes the games, but if all women can be is symbols of the bath house being torn down, then I guess I'm not allowed to sympathize and should start nagging some one about something, or hanging up on emotion.
Shower, Technology, and Human Touch
The film Shower by Yang Zhang begins in a fairly unexpected manner,
with a pipe dream sequence depicting a man entering a mechanized shower
stall. While the man stand perfectly still in the harshly lit sterile
booth, human sized car wash rollers proceed to rinse and scrub. As his
shower finishes, the scene abruptly switches to a slow panning shot of
a communal bath house. In direct contrast to the technological shower
of tomorrow, the bath house is dimly lit and cracked with age. The room
is filled with enormous waist high baths, which in turn are filled with
fat elderly and middle aged men. At the very end of the shot, the camera
comes to rest on a patron getting his back washed by Lao Liu, the owner
of the bathhouse, to whom he has just finished explaining his dream of
the futuristic shower. This scene perfectly sums up the theme of the movie,
technology and progress versus human relationships.
The film strongly reinforces this duality of old and new ways through the character of Da Ming's wife. We never actually see her or even hear her voice but come to understand her through Da Ming's phone conversations. She embodies the insensitivity of people concerned only with progress. When Da Ming finally tells her that his brother is retarded, she hangs up on him. Liu on the other hand is her complete opposite. People come first with him, and he sees it as his responsibility to help them in any way possible. From an impotent man, to a shy singer, to his own handicapped son, Lao Liu manages to help everyone around him.
The longer he stays with his estranged family, the more it becomes clear to Da Ming that it's not the old way of bathing that is what his father believes is superior; it's the people. The film asserts that technology acts as a barrier between people, for as it grants us self reliance, the fact that we no longer need someone to wash our back for us breaks apart the community we had formed when humans actually needed each other. When the bathhouse is finally demolished, the regulars lament the loss of a place to fight crickets or play chess, but what they're actually regretting is the loss of their community. Seeing this forces Da Ming to reassess his values and eventually he decides that he will make sure his brother is never alone again.
The final message of Shower is a lesson on what is really important in this world. The rekindling of Da Ming's relationship with his father and brother helps to illustrate that in the end, it is people you can count on, and no mater what technology we invent, you can never replace them.
Showering with Tradition: The preservation of A Nation
|One can appreciate a good bath. It cleanses the body; if it is hot then
it relaxes you. In quite a few religions water in some form or another is
believed to cleanse one's spirituality. This film brings a symbolic meaning
to water, which is what the city needed. Places like the bath house, or
in African American culture the neighborhood barbershop, allow people to
come together and talk about their dreams, family, work, not to mention
the welcoming atmosphere in the bathhouse in which people feel protected.
This movie brings about the importance of community in a modern day society. It emphasizes the fact that some things are worth preserving. Tradition is necessary to know first of all who we are, and second of all to know where we are going. There is no future without past. Da Ming had to realize that his father's responsibility was to the customers that he was serving. There was a greater purpose to the bathhouse than people being submerged in water. These customers submerged themselves in an environment that built character, confidence, and compromise between the men. A great moment in the film is when Zhang Jinhou marital problems bring him to the bath house, in which he eventually resolves the issues that he was having "with himself" and his wife.
Frederic Jameson speaks of western society and its relation to the "third world." "The third world," he says, "is due as much or more to the disintegration of our own conceptions of cultural study as to any very lucid awareness of the great outside world around us. We may therefore-as "humanists"-acknowledge the pertinence of the critique of present-day humanities." Bath houses and barbershops in the third world are traditional components that should not be considered out dated because they are a part of our spirituality. They may be old but still are a very necessary portion of our lives. Lao Liu, is the preserver of the traditions. This is a right passed down much like story telling. In indigenous African cultures songstresses are revered as very important people. This movie was great because it points out what modern society still needs to preserve and incorporate into its culture.