Out this week in cinemas is I Am Not Madame Bovary based on the novel of the same name by Liu Zhenyun. Starring Fan Bingbing I Am Not Madame Bovary tells the tale of Li Xuelian (Bingbing), a woman who has been swindled by her husband and seeks out the aid of the Chinese government. Unfortunately, the various levels of the government push her away seeing her as nothing more than an annoyance so she decides only one thing can be done, push back. What follows is a harrowing tale of loss, revenge and at times humour.
I Am Not Madame Bovary is a wonderfully chaotic film filled with a memorable score, beautiful cinematography, wonderfully human characters and a wonderful leading lady. All the significant elements of I Am Not Madame Bovary start with one small but powerful part, the main character Li. Li is a fascinating heroine, like a force of nature she leaves destruction in her wake against any who stand in her way. She is a woman forged in fire having lost so much to her horrible ex-husband. The film is framed like a quest with Li trying to conquer each “villain” she faces. First, she is a beggar on her knees, then a quiet rebel and there’s an incredible progression from each of these moments in her life.
Following Li on this journey is a fantastic score which perfectly characterises I Am Not Madame Bovary. This is a war film, and the heavy beating drums set up a sense of wrath that envelops Li as she travels across China to right a wrong done to her. Perfectly complimenting the great score director, Feng Xiaogang has given I Am Not Madame Bovary a cinematic flair. The cinematography in I Am Not Madame Bovary is gorgeous, each scene in this film could be taken as a still image and would look like a beautifully crafted painting.
Xiaogang’s use of such a unique style of cinematography is fantastic, you can see an example of one scene from the film above, and it lets each major location in the movie feel like a different world. When Li is in her small countryside town she is surrounded by no sharp edges, she’s in her safe zone even if she’s had a tough time in her life this place is her home. When she enters Beijing to further her case against her husband the cinematography changes, and there are edges surrounding her, and in my opinion, this showed danger and uncertainty when she entered this new locale. It was a masterstroke and when the film shifts between these locations it gave a clear indication of where we were in Li’s journey.
If there are any issues with I Am Not Madame Bovary, it is the length of the film, clocking in at 137 minutes the film loses momentum toward the final act but reclaims some of it with an emotional gut punch at the climax of the movie.
I Am Not Madame Bovary is a beautiful film filled with nuanced performances from its cast, a terrific score, and a unique cinematic design. If you’re looking for a film that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure, look no further.