Wolves, Lambs and Sheep Dogs
|With A World Without Thieves director Xiogang Feng has created a stylistic
masterpiece that also touches on important societal issues in the new China.
The high points of this film are the action sequences, which highlight the
abilities of Chinese pickpockets. The story of the relationship of the two
thieves Wang Bo and Wang Li is also powerful without being cheesy. The story
involves the intertwined relationships of the two thieves and Shagen a young
country bumpkin. Shagen is a young carpenter traveling home to his native
village with his life savings of sixty thousand Yuan to find a wife. The
young man refuses the advice of his banker to wire the money because it
costs a high fee. Instead Shagen decides to carry the money home with him
on a crowded train. Before getting on the train Shagen announces to the
crowd ��I have sixty thousand!�� in defiance of his friends ��paranoia�� about
thieves. However Shagen is much too trusting of those around him. A group
of professional thieves is on board the train as well as Shagen, Wang Bo
and Wang Li. Wang Li has decided to leave the life of crime and she demands
that Wang Bo help her protect Shagen.
The overriding message of this film is alluded to in Shagen's story of his homeland. Shagen says that in his village if you came upon a cow dropping in the road you could make a circle around it with a stick and when you came back days later it would still be there because everyone would respect it as your property. This story reveals Shagen's naivet�� about the ways of modern China. Shagen refuses to believe in thieves yet in reality he is surrounded by them. This film even down to its title (A World Without Thieves) demonstrates the desire of modern Chinese people undergoing a rough and tumble transition to capitalism to believe that there was a time and a place where people still behaved honorably. Shagen's village is imaginary. There is not and has never been a community that is such a paragon of virtue. However this story restores the audiences confidence in man's ability to be good and honest.
Throughout the film the thieves constantly refer to themselves as wolves and their prospective targets as lambs. When Uncle Bill the leader of the professional group of thieves on the train orders his men to steal Shagen's money he tells them to��fleece the lamb��. Throughout the film Wang Bo also refers to himself as a wolf. Indeed with his matted mane of black hair and his lean aspect this character does have a quite wolfish aspect. The wolf metaphor is continued with Shagen's account of guarding the worksite while the other carpenters are home for New Year. Shagen recounts having been kept company by wolves that did not harm him. Similarly Wang Bo and Wang Li will watch over the stupid young carpenter. By the end of the film Wang Bo redeems himself sacrificing his own life to save Shagen's money (and thus his hopes for a future). Symbolically the death of Wang Bo is like a sheep dog sacrificing its life to save a weak member of the flock from a wolf. Thus the story of this film is one of redemption. Wang Bo is transformed from a thief to a man whose sacrifice conjures up images not of a wolf but of the biblical good shepherd.
The Good, The Bad, and The Influential
|Even on a small college campus in a small college town, hundreds of people
pass us by on a daily basis. Out of this massive collection, I myself only
smile or acknowledge about five percent of the students I pass and I hardly
interact with the people I don't know. Feng Xiaogang's A World Without Thieves
challenges the audience to second-guess their own naivete to these ��passing
ghosts.�� Most people are born with similar beliefs to Dumbo: that all people
are naturally good. However, our tendency to accept strangers as angels
is severely influenced by the character traits of each person we meet. For
instance, every major character in the film affected the rest of the cast,
and vice versa. Each individual, even the one-line actors and background
spies, had some effect on the outcome of the train ride. Feng Xiaogang understands
that every person has the potential to change the world, but he essentially
views the world as a lukewarm location: an environment where good and evil
characters balance each other into a moderate middle ground. Feng Xiaogang
acknowledges that a world without thieves is truly ideal, but that each
and every person can still bring a positive change to the world.
The train in the movie is clearly a fantasy environment. Few people are as naive as Dumbo, who announces to a crowded train station that he is carrying sixty thousand yuan and no thief could possibly take it. Dumbo is symbolic of mankind's most innocent views on the world. He exemplifies the general good of people who wish they could ignore the upsetting conditions in the world today. However, Dumbo's hopeful character is sharply contrasted by the array of thieves, primarily Wang Bo. While Dumbo strives for good karma, Bo admits to his lack of a conscience. While Dumbo works as a temple renovator, Bo pickpockets reverent worshipers at the very same temple. Clearly, Dumbo and Bo represent the most extreme character traits on the human spectrum.
The two are forced to meet on a claustrophobic train, where no one is really a simple stranger. By placing these central characters in a confined space with undercover cops, rival thieves, two-timing sidekicks, morbid mob bosses, and sultry sell-outs, Xiaogang shows that strangers should not blindly be trusted. However, he acknowledges that everyone should be given a chance, as Wang Li and Dumbo first meet as strangers. When the two meet, Li had recently been abandoned by Bo, her partner and boyfriend, which left her extremely vulnerable to strangers. However, Li had the good fortunes to meet Dumbo, a character so ridiculously pious and na?ve that Li convinces herself she can emulate him and shift to a more religious and respectful lifestyle. Bo believes that our fates are decided from birth and that Li's change of heart is meaningless, but after sharing tight quarters with Dumbo and Li he too is convinced that there is room for improvement in everyone's life. Unfortunately, the influence acts both ways. By the end of the movie, Wang Li and Wang Bo can't keep the thieves from forcing Dumbo to take notice of the corruption in the world.
The train acts as a catalyst for change between Dumbo and Bo, the characteristic extremes of good and evil. Both have a significant effect on each other, bringing both closer to Xiaogang's idea of a typical human: corrupted but hopeful, much like Wang Li. It is impossible to be totally na?ve or totally evil because society will always balance these influences. Every random face on the train had some effect on changing Dumbo or Wang Bo as well as changing the movie. A World Without Thieves essentially encourages the audience to take a second look at their surroundings because every moment of every day could make or break the rest of one's life.
The Imaginary Creation of Innocence Comes True
| A World without Thieves is a story about the preservation of innocence
on a train full of robbers. Roots, a boy attempting to carry 60,000 yuan
aboard the train, is the personification of innocence, purity, and naivete.
However, his story is peaceful amidst the gaggle of robbers who fight over
his destiny, and that of his parcel of money. In that fight, Wang Bo and
Wang Li, in their efforts to retain Roots�� virtue, are themselves brought
into the world of the good, wolves into watchdogs.
Feng Xiaogang, the director, intended the train to be representative of the world, in a controlled space. Its trajectory is from the countryside of Tibet to the city where Roots is going to find a wife and settle down. The train is composed mostly of robbers, projecting how Feng sees the world. The illusion that he sets down in the midst of these thieves is Roots. The question was posed of whether Roots can actually exist, or if this story is told to leave the viewer with a warm spot in their hearts knowing that innocence has prevailed through the fury and smoke of the modern world, when really the reality is a world filled with thieves, teaching the na?ve that they must dance the elegant fight or be ruined.
If Roots does not exist, do Wang Li and Wang Bo? Can two ghosts be given substance once again to walk the earth pure? Well, Wang Bo cannot, according to the film, for he is killed in his quest. But there is his reincarnation inside the womb of Wang Li. Can that child be born to peace and innocence, the child of thieves? Yes. And the reason is because Wang Li believes that he can. The naivete is not Roots, thinking that he can go on a train with a bag full of money and a head full of optimism and not be robbed. The na?vet�� is believing that he can exist. Innocence is retained not in the character of Roots, whom Wang Li calls Little Brother, but in Wang Li and her ability to accept him as reality.
Therefore, audiences do not leave the theater with a false light of innocence, but with innocence itself if they believe such purity as Roots showed to be possible. So it goes that the belief in innocence, purity, and naivete is what makes them true, not in the subject to which these adjectives are attributed, but in the heart of the willing observer.
Razors and Alms: Free-will
|In A World without Thieves, Feng Xiaogang exhibits a philosophical antithesis
to the Taoist principles often associated with films depicting events of
the cultural revolution. At the core of his distinction lies a single, enduring
rivalry, that of ��fate versus free-will.��
A World without Thieves is apparently one of the few Chinese films to take up arms on the side of free-will. From start to finish, the movie portrays its characters as self-determined. Wang Li epitomizes this ideal in her successful transformation from thief to bodhisattva (the sort of thing deemed impossible in a fundamentally Taoist film). Wang Bo is entirely resigned to his fate as a thief, and thus, by default, becomes master of it. He is able to sacrifice his life at the end of the film not because he has mended his mischievous ways, but rather because he holds no value over his life. This matter is highlighted by his referring to himself as a ��ghost.�� Even Dumbo displays his power over personal destiny when he tricks Wang Li into believing his money has been stolen at the train station. Flexing his ability to deceive signals that Dumbo is not at all a case of ��unspoiled, child-like�� purity, but instead, he has made a conscious decision to believe the best of humanity. This is elaborated further in his discourse to Wang Li about belief and disbelief in ��demons.��
Although the film's free-will aspects could be seen as a comment on the power of repentance from evil (seeing as the film deals specifically with characters acting outside social law), this interpretation is undermined by the ��everyman�� qualities of Wang Bo and Wang Li. Their stable, attractive appearance is by no means an accident, as Feng commented; he chose them because they ��don't look like thieves.�� This appearance and conduct universalizes their internal experiences (even if the outward situations are unfamiliar and highly romanticized), and obliterates the ��good-bad�� duality as a restriction on manners in which one might alter their fate.
A World without Thieves - Reality or Fantasy?
|A World without Thieves is a movie showing that reality isn't always what
we think it is, nor is it necessarily the opposite of what we think. It
also shows that reality is malleable and we can change it by our actions
(which are influenced by our beliefs).
Dumbo (one of the main characters) is an orphan and farmer boy from Henan Province who has been in the city (Tibet) to work on temple renovation projects for 5 years, before deciding to return home and start a family and a farm. He has lived a very sheltered life and does not believe that anyone anywhere is capable of doing him harm. (His reason being that he was able to be with wolves that did not hurt him, and people are certainly better than wolves.)
Since Dumbo has such a pure view of the world he objects when his co-workers tell him to wire the money home to avoid having it stolen (if he brings it with him physically). He is determined to carry the money home since the wiring fee is enough to buy a goat (back home), and since he doesn't believe in thieves. When he arrives at the train station, in order to prove to his co-workers that there are indeed no thieves. He shouts out that he has 60,000 yuan and he's carrying it home, he also yells for any thieves in the crowd to show themselves for what they are. When no one says anything, Dumbo thinks this means there are no thieves at the train station. (We have seen Wang Bo, Wang Li and Hu Li's gang of thieves all in the train station) At this point we see the difference between ��true reality�� (full of thieves, planning on taking his money) and the ��reality�� that Dumbo sees (fantasy, without thieves). At this point Dumbo runs into Wang Li and wants to sit with her and Wang Bo (thinking that they are, of course, not thieves) on the train.
As the movie progresses we see the ��reality�� of the situation on the train change. At first both Wang Bo and Hu Li's gang want to steal Dumbo's money. But as time goes on, and Wang Bo spends time with Dumbo, (and keeping his money away from the Li gang) he comes to like Dumbo (although being annoyed with his naivety). With the encouraging of Wang Li, the ��reality�� surrounding Dumbo changes, from what it was in the beginning to Wang Bo trying to stop the Li gang from taking the money, not so he can take it himself, but so that Dumbo can keep it. Dumbo's purity and innocence, coupled with Wang Li's desire to make good karma for her unborn baby, help to change Wang Bo into a guardian instead of a thief.
This is especially important because in the beginning of the movie Wang Bo gives a speech to Wang Li saying that she cannot change her nature, and that she will always be what she is, a thief. And by the end of the movie, not only is Wang Li not a thief, but Wang Bo had done what he, himself, said could not be done. (He had changed his nature, from that of a thief to that of an ��older brother��/guardian)
This shows us that due to Dumbo's beliefs that he was not surrounded by thieves, he acted accordingly and (with help from Wang Li) went from being completely (and unknowingly) surrounded by thieves, to having two friends standing by him and protecting him from the ��real�� (unchanging) thieves. And this is a good example of how reality is what we make it.
Rebirth and Redemption
| A World Without Thieves, directed by Feng Xiaogang, follows the story
of the two protagonists, Wang Li and Wang Bo, and their struggles to escape
from their immoral lives as thieves. The film seems to me to be very much
invested with the struggle between good and evil, and right and wrong. From
the opening scenes of the film, the viewer can see that these two characters
are very good at what they do, which is rob people. Wang Bo in particular
is even depicted as having no morals at all. When Wang Li starts to feel
as though she no longer wants to be a thief and stops at the shrine to pray,
Wang Bo is simultaneously robbing others who have also come in earnest prayer.
Wang Li then becomes fed up and leaves Wang Bo, stating that she wants to
live a more upright life. Later we will learn that her motivation for such
a change is that she is having his baby soon and does not want it to be
punished for their immoral actions.
The main plot of the story begins to develop with the introduction of Dumbo, a naive young man with a very kind heart. He leaves his home in the mountains and boards a train to the city seeking to find himself a wife. He is also carrying a great deal of money, sixty-thousand dollars to be exact, and plans to use this money to start a new life for him and his future family. He is very ignorant to the ways of the world however, and basically advertises that he has a large amount of money on him, challenging thieves to come and try to take it. Wang Li immediately comes to his aid when she realizes that there are several thieves, including Wang Bo, who will now try to steal his money. In many ways I feel that Wang Li's affection for Dumbo stems from the fact that he is ��innocence personified.�� She wants her own child to be as innocent and kind-hearted as Dumbo, and also wants to change the course of her immoral life.
Throughout the film we see Wang Li attempting to protect Dumbo's money, as well as his innocence, while Wang Bo, as well as Uncle Li and his three subordinates try to steal them. Her metamorphosis into a virtuous and morally upright person has already taken place. However, Wang Bo's case is different. He is continually tempted, not only by Dumbo's money, but also the thought of joining Uncle Li, who is a very experienced and skilled thief. Wang Bo's metamorphosis comes when he is facing off against Four Eyes on top of the train. When he passes through the tunnel and his wig flies off, he becomes a new person. From that point on in the film, he also devotes himself to protecting Dumbo and his money from Uncle Li.
In the end, the two protagonists seem to find the redemption that they are both searching for, but this does not come without consequence. Wang Li escapes the train unscathed, but Wang Bo is killed by Uncle Li while returning Dumbo's money, which Uncle Li had managed to steal. Uncle Li also faces strict consequences for his thievery, as he is caught and arrested by the cops directly following his murder of Wang Bo and escape from the train. Even though they became ��good people�� by the end of the film, Wang Bo and Wang Li's earlier actions still did not go unpunished. The moral of the story seems to be that one can change his or her fate, but wrong deeds do not go unpunished, even if the person turns from their immoral ways.
Stop, Drop the Coin, and Get Retribution
|The film A World Without Thieves, deals with the idea that a person needs
to commit at good act in order to redeem them. This type ideal is especially
apparent in those who have committed crimes or acts that would tarnish their
soul or karma. This plan materializes as the thief Wang Li, finds out that
the younger boy, Dumbo is carrying 60,000 yuan, in cash. She believes that
she needs to cleanse her soul and does not want to have bad karma. Wang
Li thinks that it is her duty to help protect Dumbo's money.
When you use the language of soul, karma, redemption and absolution, it is perhaps necessary to let your reader know what religious traditions you are referring to. Otherwise I see a critical lack of awareness of the views and attitudes of the director whose film art you are interpreting. What's Feng Xiaogang's message by creating a story like this?
On the abstract level in this film, one idea is that no one can be naive in today's society. It is never possible to walk around in a heavily populated area shouting that you are carrying money. That is the obvious one, but carrying around cash on a populated train is also not a good idea. Dumbo was told by his peers to wire the money where he was going but he was too naive and primitive to embrace that. The film is also showing that in China's current society, no one is safe from being pick pocketed. There is even a chance of getting things stolen at a temple. In addition to trying to scare the audience, director Feng Xiaogang is trying to show that there is a force outdoing battle with the sly thieves. This was shown with the police force pickpocket division that was present on the train. The movie represents what is going on in the underworld of China's pickpocket industry. The whole lot included, good thieves, bad thieves, and the law enforcement that brings them in.
Does it occur to you that this might be an allegory rather than a realistic representation of reality (in which thieves seldom if ever risk their lives protecting people's property). The justice achieved in here is not social but poetic
Another aspect of the film that is on the abstract level is the idea that everyone in society is generally good, but they sometimes have a rough exterior. This idea is personified with the ��good thieves,�� Wang Bo and Wang Li. These two people had very rough exteriors and had a reputation of being very cut throat when it came to stealing. When the tables changed, and Wang Li became pregnant, she felt as if she needed to change her ways and get out of a life of crime. Most people in society are good as stated before, but sometimes is takes a drastic turn of events to change the way a person acts. While the movie makes the point of saying that most people are inherently good, it also makes the point of showing that the world is full of ��wolves�� that will never change and will only stop when they are brought to justice. The movie is saying that there will always be evil people in society, even though the ones with a rough exterior may change.
A World Without Innocence
|Feng Xiaogang's A World Without Thieves followed a couple that was thieves
and pickpockets, Wang Bo and Wang Li. They are both quite good at scamming
people and stealing. We see in the beginning that this life is not satisfying
Wang Li. She decides that she no longer wants this kind of life. Wang Bo
later changes as well. So what is it that causes to thieves to change their
lives? Wang Bo and Wang Li change because of different events, but for the
same reason, to protect the innocence of youth.
Wang Li meets a young man named Dumbo. She is immediately attracted to his innocence and naive trust of all people. We see early on that Wang Li wants to change and even threatens to leave Wang Bo because of his actions, but we find out later the reason for this sudden change. Wang Li has become pregnant, but does not tell Wang Bo about this until much later in the film. When Wang Li tells Wang Bo about her pregnancy, he is a different person from that moment forward in the film. Wang Li feels that she should start doing good deeds, in fear that her child will receive bad karma. She does not want the child to ever become a thief like her and Wang Bo have become. The news of the new child on the way, who is a completely ��clean slate,�� causes both of them to want to do good things. They feel that doing so will give the child a better chance.
As a result of having this new urge to do right, Wang Li and Wang Bo befriend Dumbo, who is a co-passenger on a train full of thieves. They begin calling Dumbo ��little brother.�� The whole time he is on the train, he doesn't realize that there have been people trying to steal the large amount of money that he has on him. Wang Li and Wang Bo do their best to protect him and his money. Dumbo is very young and na?ve and to me, he represented a certain innocence that can only come from being young and not having lived through certain hardships yet. This is similar to their unborn child though. They never wanted the child to have to go through what they went through growing up, which is obviously what made them become thieves in the first place. I think they protected Dumbo because having his money stolen would have caused him to not trust people anymore. This may have been what happened to Wang Li and Wang Bo in the first place to cause them to become thieves.
Wang Li and Wang Bo sought redemption. We also see that the villain, Mr. Li, has none of the conviction or the want to achieve redemption that the couple has. He is also older though, so I viewed him as a representation of a person that is old and has seen so much that he completely lacks trust or faith in the human race. Dumbo and the unborn child are completely innocent in their lack of experience. Wang Bo and Wang Li are in the middle. They seem to be going the direction of Mr. Li, but end up wanting redemption and turning their paths to follow a different direction. It seems that even they have felt that there is no trusting anyone, but Dumbo makes them believe again. I think this movie shows us that there are still those that are innocent and that there is good even in people that have not been such good people.
Wolves are Thieves and Thieves are Wolves
|The film, A World Without Thieves, directed by Feng Xiaogang
can be interpreted as describing evil and sin in human society. The movie
is about evil versus evil and which evil is worse; Wang Bo and Wang Li,
the couple thieves, or Uncle Li and his gang of thieves on the train. In
addition, there are many times in the movie where the word ��wolves�� was
used as a metaphor referring to thieves. ��Once a wolf always a wolf�� was
the preferred phrase that the thieves liked to use to describe themselves.
Wang Bo and Wang Li, the couple thieves, are evil but they have inner conflicts which cause them to be the less evil in the movie. The greater evil is Uncle Li and his gang of thieves because he is willing to hurt people and steal even when his life is on the line. For example, the scene where he is crawling in the shaft of the train and spots Shagen's (meaning roots), or as he is called in the movie Dumbo, bag that contains the money. He stops long enough to steal the bag when the police are searching for him. Wang Bo's inner conflicts are illustrated throughout the movie, but are finally resolved when he forces Wang Li to escape and upon her insistence returns to fight Uncle Li for the bag to return it to Dumbo (without Dumbo's knowing), the innocent and na?ve boy that the couple protect. Despite his imminent death he returns the bag, but Uncle Li escapes, only to fall into the clutches of the police outside the train. Wang Bo dies as a thief, but a redeemed thief. Throughout the film people continuously remind Bo of the saying ��once a thief always a thief�� and he should not bother trying to redeem himself because he has already done too many bad deeds to make up for them with one good deed. However, while the couple is sitting in the room captured by the police, the one cop tells them that, because they helped the capture of Uncle Li and protected Dumbo, their sentence might be lighter than it would have been. One good deed can lighten the sentence of retribution for the long list of bad deeds.
Throughout the movie wolves are said to be the metaphor for thieves and that once you join the pack of wolves you will always be one. Wolves are impure and the impure are there to protect the pure to preserve the harmony of the universe. There must be a balance of evil and good to keep the universe in harmony. When one side or the other becomes more than its opposite then chaos reigns. In the movie, Dumbo is like a lamb and a pack, or in this case a couple, of wolves will protect it from other wolves because it is theirs to do what they want with later. Dumbo's innocent and childlike qualities are a symbol of Wang Li's desire what she wants her unborn child to be like, but if she continues to live the life of a thief then the child will not be innocent and may become corrupt like Li.
The film was well made and the plot was also set up well. The acting in it was great. Andy Lao (or Liu) is a wonderful actor with much talent. The hand to hand combat (literally) was done with precision, grace, and humor. The build up of the characters was done so well that it felt like I knew the characters personally. The film left me with the urge to look up Andy Lao because he was good. After the movie, I had felt an undeniable urge to be a thief for a little while, but that feeling passed soon after. This is a film that should be referred to all to see.
Will the Liberated Woman still be in society's shackles?
| A World without Thieves, directed by Feng Xiaogang, calls
into question the ��liberated�� woman. This theme advances itself primarily
through the relationship of Wang Bo and Wang Li. In previous movies viewed,
such as Ermo, the woman becomes ��liberated�� by taking over the male-female
relationship lock, stock, and barrel. Ermo, in the movie by the same title,
frees herself from the bonds and constraints of traditional Chinese society
by usurping her husband's power. Throughout the movie, Ermo gains economic
superiority by providing the family's income. She also becomes the chief
decision maker of the household, deciding when her son is not allowed to
play with friends - during, of course, when the child's friends are watching
television - and deciding the purchases that the family will make, the television
instead of a new house. In a final move to conquer all aspects of the male-female
relationship, she exerts a sexual dominance by having an affair with Xiazi.
This represents one modern perception of what a woman should be in modern
China. She does not aim to be man's partner. Rather, the woman reverses
the polarization created by society's customs and inverts these standards,
essentially accomplishing nothing but redefining repression. Therefore this
modern woman fails to liberate herself. She merely makes sure society's
restraints are firmly in place.
An alternative ��liberated�� woman exists in A World without Thieves. Wang Li, a reformed thief, exemplifies this role. Throughout the movie, she is by no means submissive. In one scene, she sees it necessary to slap her lover, Wang Bo, and has no reservations doing so. At the same time, though, she takes into account her partner's and friend's feelings. Wang Bo's thieving ways trouble her as the couple has a child on the way, but eventually she sees the shepard-like qualities of her lover and accepts him as an equal partner. Additionally, in mentoring Roots and looking after him, she respects his views, however naive they may be. During their journey on the train, she allows Roots to hold onto his money and tries to maintain his view of evil in society. If Root's thoughts on the lack of evil in society are the house that Ermo's husband wanted and the cold truth is the television Ermo wanted to purchase, then Wang Li chose a new house, at the price of great personal inconvenience.
In the cause of further extending this idea of modern woman, A World without Thieves denounces the previous model offered by Ermo through the character Leaf, Ye Zi. Leaf interests Uncle Li as not only an able thief, but also as a woman. Through her womanly power of persuasion she gains favor of Uncle Li. Her domination of Uncle Li's attention leads him astray from the other members of his crime family. Uncle Li's second in command, Lao Er, expressed his frustration on many occasions during the train ride, noticing his favoritism. In the end, this role reversal brought harm to everyone. Lao Er abandoned Uncle Li and turned into a simple bandit. This was a particularly notable betrayal as Uncle Li saw bandits as common thieves without imagination or artless in the thievery. The remaining members of Uncle Li's crime family also followed Lao Er, leaving him with himself and Leaf, the apparent root of the organization's problems. Leaf, in a final dismissal of any domination of one sex over the other, turns herself into the police, hoping to start anew after serving a jail sentence. Symbolically, she converts herself into the model of modern woman proposed by Wang Li.
As Chinese society moves ever closer to capitalism, tradition may be uprooted for new ideas of family organization. Feng Xiaogang suggests, in his movie, that this new society has the chance to satisfy both woman and man's needs for power and equality. Ermo's answer for this new society essentially leaves nothing unchanged. One sex still must live life repressed.
The Wolf that Protects
| In A World Without Thieves, the metaphor used for the thieves
on the train is that they are wolves. Wang Bo, Wang Li, Uncle Li, and his
gang are all identified as predators that prey on the weak and defenseless.
On the other side, Dumbo is identified by the metaphor of the lamb. Dumbo
and his possessions is the feast, and the thieves expect to enjoy it. An
interesting thing occurs on the train ride; Wang Li decides to protect the
lamb, which defies her ��natural�� instincts.
Wang Li has been a predator for a long time with her mate, but her pregnancy has worried her. She does not want her sins to be on the head of her unborn child. It would be unfair for her child to be cursed for the actions that she and Wang Bo have done. Wang Bo gives up the criminal element and decides to do some good to erase the bad karma or the sins from her before her child is born. This appears in the film as going against her nature, as Wang Bo reminds her that she is nothing but a She-Wolf. Not only does her [he] refute the ability of her to change, but he also insists that he is going to steal from Dumbo regardless. Wang Bo is without the knowledge that Wang Li is pregnant, and his actions still represent those of a lone wolf.
As Wang Bo goes about setting his plans, he is confronted by the other pack of wolves, Uncle Li and his gang. They want the money for themselves, but Wang Li stands squarely in their way. Not only is Wang Li out to protect the lamb, but Wang Bo in a battle of pride and ego will not allow his prize to be taken from him. There ensues a conflict over the money, and the lamb is placed behind the protection of Wang Li and Wang Bo. This happens through Wang Li finally admitting her pregnancy to Wang Bo. He is forced to see himself as selfish, and he thinks that he will not be a good father. Wang Bo has thought all along that he is unable to change; just like Wang Li he is condemned to being a wolf forever.
With this thought in mind, he too decides that he will help protect the lamb and his mate. Wang Bo, like Wang Li, does not want to bring his sins on his child, and the act of protecting the na?ve and innocent Dumbo would assuage his fears. The two set themselves up for one redeeming act, protecting the most pure person, as a refutation of all that they have done wrong. Wang Bo's pride though continues to compel Uncle Li into action against Dumbo. Uncle Li wants to drag Wang Bo down into the depths of pure evilness that he knows, and this leads to a challenge. If Wang Bo can win, then Wang Li and he can amend for all their faults, but if not he is condemned to follow Uncle Li. In the end, Wang Bo wins, but extenuating circumstances lead to Wang Bo and Uncle Li facing one last time.
In the last act that saves their child from their sins, Wang Bo faces off against Uncle Li for Dumbo's sake. Wang Li escapes to give birth to their child without it knowing their past, and Wang Bo sacrifices himself in the final fight. Even though he dies, Wang Bo assures that the lamb is protected and the evil wolf is put to justice, thus alleviating their past regressions. The truth of their redemption is found in the policeman telling Wang Li that their child should know the truth about its�� father, because he was not evil. The policeman's authoritative role seems to cleanse the two of their wrongdoing.
The Good Thieves
|"A World without thieves��mainly follows the lives of
two master thieves: Wang Bo and Wang Li. This is where the Shangen [Sha-gen]
enters the story with his unbelievable innocence and incomprehensible naivet��.
He gets on a train full of thieves, including Wang Bo and Wang Li. Shangen
carries a relatively big sum of 60,000 Yuan and ironically is not careful
about guarding his money as he is incapable of understanding why anyone
would want to steal his money from him. Director Feng Xiaogang develops
the situation described so far in order to juxtapose the two extreme sides
of life: over-honesty and the most deceptive form of dishonesty. In the
end, Feng Xiaogang wants the viewers to understand that dishonest people
too have feelings and can be attracted to the other side.
Wang Li, despite being a professional thief, has feelings and in order to redeem for her earlier crimes want to quit her current job of extorting people. Director Xiaogang portrays her as a person on the verge of changing; she only needs a little push from the good side. This push is provided by Shagen's faith in a world without thieves. In the beginning Shagen is portrayed as a person doomed to be a loser in this world full of thieves. This world is beautifully symbolized by the moving train full of thieves. But, contrary to every expectation, it turns out that not only does he emerge a winner at the end of the trip but transforms the lives and beliefs of a very professional thief, Wang Bo, who followed robbery as a religion (with rules etc). The death of Wang Bo in the end leaves the viewer with a very positive view on becoming an honest person. This belief is exaggerated by the lives of all the thieves and Shagen. The thieves are always in haste; they can't rest well and have a lot to fear. There is danger from every side waiting for them, either from the police of the other thieves. Contrary to this is the carefree life of Shangen who doesn't even have to worry about his money. For example, Shagen's money is lost and Bo gives his life to find and return it to him. And all this time Shangen is peacefully asleep. His faith in the non-existence of thieves is the shown to be the only ability (if it can qualify as an ability) he possesses in comparison to the talent of the thieves. Yet it is this ability that makes him a more inspiring person than anyone else in the movie.
Director Feng Xiaogang's message can also be interpreted from another point of view. The movie equally emphasizes the fact that even the most devoted thief possesses an ability to consider and change his life. All he needs is a little help and inspiration from the "good-side". The viewer is left with a very new look towards the life and character of a professional thief and the inspirational power of honesty.