Zhen Ai (1925) 真爱 (True Love)
Xin Dalu (New Continent). B&W. Silent. 12 reels. Premiered August 18, 1925 at the Palace. Direction and Screenplay: Chen Tian, adapted from an original work by Zhou Shoujuan (1895-1968). Cinematography: Xu Wenwei. Program notes: Ding Xiqing. Cast: Fu Manli (Zou Rulan), Li Quxing (Tang Xiaohe), Su Heqiao (Li Guoxun), Cheng Jingxiong (Zhang Suying), Ding Xiqing (He Renzhai), Peng Kequan (Sang Yingjia), Su Xing (Wu Liang), Fu Yuntai (Zou Shian), Chen Jingyuan (Cai Baineng), Sang Lijuan (the nurse), Jiang Meilun (Lin Xuemei), Liu Daotong (Li Keqin), Ao Yi (Mrs. Li, née Zhu), Xia Suiqing (the postman), Ma Loufen (Li Guoxian), Chen Shaohui (Li Guoliang), Lin Chong (Tang's servant), Cai Zemin (Zou's servant), Xu Zhixin (Li's servant), Zhou Qiupu (the matchmaker), Chen Fei (Zhang Shen).
[Comment: While this sad tale of star-crossed lovers may seem shallow and insipid to modern tastes, it was very popular when released, a typical example of the "mandarin ducks and butterflies" school of literature that was a major theme of mid-1920s Chinese cinema. It is understandable that the film resonated with audiences, as it dealt with several topics which moviegoers, especially young, urban moviegoers, could relate to: the evil of arranged marriages; the importance of seeking love with just one woman; the virtues of genuine and faithful love. It is also notable as an early example of film adaptations of Zhou Shoujuan, a major literary figure in the first half of the 20th century, and someone we will discuss more fully in an upcoming post.]
[right, Fu Manli and Li Quxing as the star-crossed lovers]
A talented musician, a passionate young man named Tang Xiaohe, meets a girl named Zou Rulan, and
for him it is love at first sight. She considers him a good friend, and wishes they had met earlier, for her father has already betrothed her to a man named Li Guoxun. Xiaohe continues their friendship,
however, figuring that if he can't be her lover he will be her protector and confidant, always there if she should need him. But after Rulan's marriage, her playboy husband soon tires of her, has affairs with other women, and at last drives Rulan from his family's home. Unbearably ashamed, Rulan jumps into a river in a suicide attempt, but is rescued by one of Xiaohe's friends, who takes her to Xiaohe's home. There, the musician takes care of her and plays beautiful music for her, which raises her spirits. But when word arrives that Guoxun has had one extramarital affair too many, and was slain by the jealous lover of one of his mistresses, instead of relief Rulan falls deeper into despair, her illness becomes more serious, and several months later she also dies. After her death, Xiaohe comes daily to sit by her tomb and talk to her as if she were present. A month later, too broken-hearted to survive, Xiaohe himself passes. As his love had lay dying, Xiaohe had told her, "I loved you at first sight, I still love you now, and I will love you even after I am dead." He now repeats these words in front of her tomb, then dies.