Reflections on “A Touch of Sin”

Jia Zheng-ke’s recent movie; “A Touch Of Sin” could be considered the third segment of his social criticism of the modern China in the series that came to notice with his earlier works such as “The World” in 2003 and “Still life” in 2006.

In his most recent episodic feature, the prominent figure of the 6th generation of the Chinese cinema directly criticizes the greed that has been spread into the lives of different social classes of the country; The world’s newest super power and economic giant.

The winner of the best screenplay from 2013 Cannes film festivals conveys the story of four people who in their own way are the victims of the world-systems theory; A new-marxist economic theory that sees the world as developed and underdeveloped states or zones, the interaction of which, produces a global core-periphery division of labor. As a result in countries such as China, with a semi-periphery structure, this has led to unequal distribution of wealth. The outcome of this inequality has brought greed to a few and disappointment to many resulting to a revolt against the system that leads to one of the most violent bloodsheds ever depicted in a Zheng-Ke’s movie. The film is signifying that class division, which had earlier been a result of globalized economy, is now getting to unbearable limits, causing ordinary people to act fanatical.

In the first episode where an ordinary villager suddenly becomes a killing machine; the several acts of violent man slaughter is justified by his step by step disappointment from the system from which a Mao statue is all that is left. The promise of equality of masses in a communist country is now replaced by materialistic values which are symbolized by the expensive automobile of the boss.

Similar behavior is executed in the beginning of the movie once the second episodes main character shoots and kills those who attempt to rub him on his motorbike. His actions are not an act of self-defense, but more of a sadistic revenge from the system that has produced thugs and thieves that rob ordinary people.

The third episodes’ character, a women working as a receptionist in a sauna, is humiliated by a wealthy man who thinks money can buy everything. The scene where he hits with paper bills into her face forcing her to have sex with him represents a new wealthy class that allow themselves to evaluate everything with materialistic parameters. This class is the aftermath of an unsupervised and unequal distribution of wealth in China that creates a social disorder.

In the final episode we see a young boy who kills himself simply because when he loses his job he doesn’t know how to carry on any longer.

Zheng-Ke’s cynical look at modern day struggles of the Chinese people is a thought provoking film that condemns the social structure of modern China, illuminating the realities and shortcomings of a globalized economy, challenging whether China, is capable to handle this economic system that leads to a huge class division for long.