See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, March 4, 1998

Frozen

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 1998 at 12:00 AM

As one could glean from the pseudo-nym used by Frozen's co-writer and director -- Wu Ming, meaning "no name" in Chinese -- this realist drama's strongest trait is its elusiveness. This true story of a young performance artist driven to kill himself as a last "work" is much of the reason for Wu Ming's assumed anonymity. Indeed, while independently produced films are illegal in China, Frozen's radical edge is its most remarkable facet.

At the outset, Qi Lei (Jia Hongshen), a placid student and sometime performance artist, is introduced while enthusing to a friend about the nearing of his "ice burial," in which he will melt a huge block of ice with the heat of his body. Qi is cool (in the American sense), plaintive, detached, but wanting to make a difference in the social scheme of Beijing. While the harsh world of dependency leaves him fatigued at each day's end, Qi Lei's personal status quo prods him to greater heights of performance art.

Wu Ming deftly charges Frozen with a psychological tautness, by way of a series of mostly silent, long scenes. She/he breaks its narrative almost entirely into disarming, artful vignettes charting the young man's disintegration. Qi Lei's feelings of ennui and contempt, conveyed almost entirely without dialogue, keep this docudrama riveting.

These silent scenes speak volumes on alienation, and convey a sense of horror reminiscent of Bergman at his creepiest. Actor Jia Hongshen is nicely unaffected, and so works as a tool for the film's dizzying trips -- one through a mental institution and another to a Western-style underground club where a band plays punk rock. Here Qi Lei's course becomes uncomfortably clear.

Ultimately though, it is impossible to determine the exact reasons for the protagonist's actions. To his or her credit, Wu Ming makes the young man's motive far less important than the course of his psychic meltdown. Still, Frozen speaks as much to the Western drift of nihilism as to any exotic wish for a modern-day utopia.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Forrest Green III

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit