China's Film-makers Depict Winter

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

Updated: Feb 18, 2020 Print
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Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

IMDb rating: 6.7/10

Black Coal, Thin Ice is a 2014 Chinese thriller film written and directed by Diao Yinan. The film won the Golden Bear award at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.

Zhang Lili (Liao Fan) is an ex-cop traumatized by a brutal shooting he witnessed five years before while on the trail of a killer leaving chopped-up body parts in piles of coal.

Now a drunk and a loser, he works as a security guard and becomes obsessed with a new case: corpses chopped up in the same way, but with a macabre new detail – the feet have ice-skates attached.

With the weary indulgence of his former police colleagues, he begins to investigate and becomes obsessed with the first victim’s beautiful and mysterious widow (Kwei Lunmei), who works at a dry-cleaner’s. [Photo/imdb]

The film's English title Black Coal, Thin Ice is different from its Chinese title Bai Ri Yan Huo, which translates literally as Daylight Fireworks. Diao came across this phrase from a friend of his. He further clarified the meaning of "daylight fireworks" as a state of sentiment. For him, the Chinese and English names together help construct the difference between reality and fantasy.

The English name refers to the two visual clues in the film: coal as ‘where the body parts were found’ and ice as ‘where the murders were committed’. [Photo/still frame of Bai Ri Yan Huo]

Most of the shootings take place in Harbin, capital city of Heilongjiang province in Northeast China.

Having the most bitterly cold winters of major Chinese cities, Harbin is heralded as the Ice City for its well-known winter tourism and recreation. It is noted for its beautiful winter ice sculpture festival.

From January through to mid-March, Harbin hosts the International Ice and Snow Festival. Exhibitions of snow and ice sculptures, kept pristine by subzero temperatures, are dotted across multiple locations.

The biggest – and priciest to attend – is Harbin Ice and Snow World, which showcases the flashiest and most neck-craning sculptures. [Photo/Xinhua]


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