Response Paper #1
Before the screening of The Goddess in class, my only recollections of Ruan Linyu is base on her bio-epic film directed by Stanley Kwan in 1992 called Center Stage. The role of Ruan was played by the ever so beautiful – Maggie Cheung. Center Stage ended with Cheung as a tragic hero, who took her own life at a tender age of 24. Similarly, The Goddess also reflected a tale of the tragic hero, with the main character (Ruan) pushed into the abyss of nothingness and hopelessness in the ending.
The Goddess could most possibly be the best and readily available testimony to Ruan’s acting talent; she plays a prostitute dedicated to improving the life of her son. The Goddess, 神女, is somewhat ironic and seems to be a well-known euphemism with the Chinese characters both signifying a mother/heroin but at the same time a prostitute, a women of the night that roams the streets.
In a nutshell, fate plays her a poor hand when, on the run from the police who have ordered a clampdown on Shanghai’s prostitutes; she stumbles into a small time gangster’s headquarters, who hides her. However, he then considers her his property and that she is forever in debt to him. He takes most of the money she makes on the streets, threatens her son if she doesn’t do as he says, as well as assault her when he feels like it. Managing to put aside some money, she enrolls her son into a private school. However her reputation is well known – neighbors gossip and refuse to let their children play with her son, who call him a ‘bastard’ and a child ‘from a bad family’. The final humiliation occurs during a talent show, during which every parent whispers about the dubious morality of the mother. The head teacher receives numerous complaints from parents and feels obliged to expel the boy but changes his mind after visiting. He can see she’s a good mother, and only works on the streets to provide for her son, and he senses her shame about what she does for a living. However, the...