You are looking for a reason, a past life, a missing blank and then you realise, “This is a love story”.
The writer and director Zhangke Jia is a, if I may, a sadistic person when it comes to portray love in cinema. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You can see the result here. It is just, personally I feel sobered up when I start jumping on this train. Now, this is not just any “sober”-ness that he offers us. It is a post hangover, too many cups of coffee, sober. What it sums up too, is an experience. An experience of a lifetime? Sure, why not. For if the writing and direction of the film is pretty standard. What Jia has achieved in this passionate project of his, is something I haven’t seen before.
And maybe, I will remember it years later, for its originality. Or just freshness, in my life. Over the two hours in our world, and more than 15 years in the character’s world, Jia defines love. Now, there have been so many filmmakers, storytellers, philosophers and whatnots that had tried to conjure the essence of what love is. Where some has been so theoretical and meticulous and a bit math about their love, some has been awfully blunt in their grammar.
And maybe this one comes in later or maybe in both of them. Jia describes it disproportionately. The writers, before him, have gone through enormous lengths to justify it, balance it and share it as much as they could. And even if this one shares its share inadvertently, it is also never called upon. This leaves a hollow space in your head. You are numb for the rest of the day when you get in contact with this. Ash Is Purest White, it concludes, pretty early on, and by the last bell is rung, you’d wish for some, some filter in their voices.