Crime and History Intersect: Films of Murder in Contemporary Chinese Wenyi Cinema Open Access

Yao, Tianyi (Spring 2018)

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Around the year 2006, both Mainland China’s and Hong Kong SAR’s film industries had undergone significant transformations following unprecedented economic liberalization and volumes of capital flow as well as shifts in the political environments. The restructured film landscapes as a result facilitated a new mode of filmmaking that nonetheless inherited a historical concept from Chinese cinema: the wenyi (literary arts) film. Within this particular category of films, there emerged several key works that ventured into the dark realm of murder, possibly the most provocative subject matter accessible to wenyi cinema. Borrowing from a wide array of social theorists such as Michel Foucault, Crime and History Intersect: Films of Murder in Contemporary Chinese Wenyi Cinema dissects a series of Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong films produced after 2006, especially focusing on their formally distinct interrogations of the act of killing. The project thus reveals a complex web of genre subversions, social commentaries, philosophical contemplation, and homicidal violence woven across a group of notable films, two discrete film cultures, and a mix of Chinese and Western art histories. Through the analyses of five representative wenyi films featuring murder, this project explores the three key tenants that define contemporary wenyi cinema, namely tragedy, subtlety, and humanism.

Table of Contents


Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Tragedy 23

Night and Fog Background and Synopsis 23

Port of Call Background and Synopsis 26

Tragic Death at Home 28

The Butcher by the Cliff 38

Room Without a View 49

Chapter 2: Subtlety 52

Exodus Background and Synopsis 52

Black Coal, Thin Ice Background and Synopsis 55

Killing Softly 58

Long Arm of the Law 70

Daylight Fireworks 78

Chapter 3: Humanism 81

A Touch of Sin Background and Synopsis 81

Humanism and Misanthropy 85

Serpent of Good and Evil 95

“La lutte sanguinaire ou le neant?” 104

Conclusion 105

Bibliography 105

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