第43期:《驴得水》 (”Mr. Donkey”)

In this episode, I talk about how a donkey gets water in China… Just kidding. 《驴得水》(“Mr Donkey”) is a film that I’ve been wanting to recommend for a while now. I’d say it’s one of the best Chinese films produced in the last decade or so. You should definitely watch it and let me know what you think!

Chinese Version

English Version

哈喽,大家好。我是Kaycee。

今天给大家介绍一部2016年的电影,叫《驴得水》。它最初是一部话剧,随后被拍成一部电影。我当时是看完话剧之后看的电影,看完电影之后,天呐,哭的不行。我个人认为这是中国近10多年来,在为数不多的比较好的电影里面极其出色的一部电影。

《驴得水》是一部荒诞喜剧,讲的是在1942年,一群品行不端却怀有教育梦想的大学教师,从大城市来到偏远乡村开办了一所学校。学校待遇惨淡、生活艰苦,但老师们都自得其乐,每天嘻嘻哈哈打成一片。然而教育部特派员要来突击检查的消息打破了这份安宁,因为学校有一位“驴得水老师”隐藏着不可告人的秘密。就在所有人都担心丑事即将败露的时候,一个神奇天才的出现拯救了大家,然而谁又能料到真正的麻烦才刚刚开始。

小心,前方有剧透。

故事创意是怎么来的呢?其实是2009年初,周申和朋友吃饭的时候聊出来的一个故事,与创作伙伴刘露讨论过后,便将它发展成了一个电影大纲。2010年,周申完成了《驴得水》电影剧本的文本,并申请了文字著作版权。

2011年,一部名叫《驴得水》的微电影出现在网络上,短片借鉴了部分剧本的内容,但并没有拍出精髓,这让周申意识到必须马上把真正的《驴得水》立起来。然而相比拍电影,排一个话剧显然要快得多。2012年,戏剧导演专业出身的周申和刘露,又着手将《驴得水》改编成话剧剧本。

2012年话剧《驴得水》火了,周申和刘露从2013年又开始筹备电影版本 。走了一年的弯路,2014年在参加开心麻花一个演员的婚礼时,碰到开心麻花张总,发现他们也在做电影,于是开始了拍摄电影《驴得水》的合作。

荒诞喜剧做得好的话是最能呈现出现实生活中人性精神层面上的东西,并且不失惊喜。

《驴得水》这部电影则把人的贪念演绎的淋漓尽致。电影里有五个重要人物,孙校长、裴魁山、周铁男、张一曼和铜匠。电影里第一出戏就先交代了孙校长、裴魁山、周铁男、张一曼,这四位教师的贪念。四个人讨论的是奖学金的事情,清点账目发现每个人都公款私用,每个人都有污点。这也算是小事吧,谁没有贪过一点小便宜呢,是吧?但是驴棚起火之后,真正的灾难到了。四个人之前的善意将要完全被摧毁。

校长
孙校长是个典型的实用性知识分子,可以为了一件善事,而去做更多的坏事,为了“一事功成,而做大事可以不拘小节”。他眼里的善事、大事,就是办好学校。

校长从头到尾的性格基本是一致的,和风细雨,一副慈母善目的模样。但是,我们看到了他是怎么一步一步失去底线的。

一开始,在这个落后的小村子里建立一所学校,确实是善意的,很美好、很值得敬佩的的一件事。

之后,为了骗取教育资金,他编了个谎言,把驴棚里的驴写成了一位学校里的老师。为了圆这个谎,不仅谎言越来越大,越来越离谱,也把危险带给了周围的人。

他为了心里所谓的理想,一步步偏离自己的底线,忘记了自己的初衷。为了自己所谓的“大事”,可以不拘的“小节”从撒谎骗钱,变成了牺牲别人的尊严、自由、感情。

他找来铜匠,假扮吕得水,默认张一曼的“睡服”观点。这是睡眠的睡哦,我就不多解释了。直到最后纵容裴魁山的贪欲与恶,牺牲张一曼,任由别人谩骂,侮辱,亲自为她剪阴阳头。甚至,牺牲掉自己的亲生女儿。

发生了这一切之后,我们会叹息:值得吗?

铜匠
我们再来看看铜匠,一个原本质朴无华,无欲无求,没有接受过教育的善良单纯的人,被培训,被教化,被“睡服”之后,他变了。

铜匠是一个“刁民”的形象,展现了一个胆小,没有太多文化却手握权力的这么一个人会是什么样子。

这也许是对教育的讽刺,老师能教你知识,却教不会你做人,错误的教育方式,往往适得其反,没有文化积淀,懂再多也是个人渣。

裴魁山
裴魁山是一个彻底的小人,他爱钱,自私自利。唯一一个可以说上是优点的就是他起初对张一曼一厢情愿的好。但是当自己被拒绝之后,随着张一曼“睡服”铜匠,他的价值观开始了变化。这一点点的单纯也消失了,既然得不到张一曼,他就要毁了她。很极端、很可怕。

当自己的利益受到侵犯的时候,他喊了一句:“你凭什么拿你的道德标准来捆绑我的利益”。

这句话困扰了我很久。单看的话,这句话其实也没什么问题,我们对自己的生活方式是有选择的权利的。但是我就是不认同裴魁山的所作所为,可能是因为他的极端吧。

我觉得这句话缺少的是对道德标准的定义。一个人有正确的三观和道德标准还是很重要的。当然,正确是有弧度的,有些事情是没有纯粹的黑白之分。

周铁男
接下来我们看看周铁男。周铁男,唯一一个有着骨气的男人,浩然正气、血气方刚。他是唯一一个反对张一曼去睡服铜匠的人,也是唯一一个在辱骂张一曼的时候不同流合污的人。但是子弹擦肩而过之后,他怕了,瞬间跪地求饶,变成了特派员的走狗,督促大家完成特派员的计划,甚至可以去劝说自己喜欢的姑娘扮演别人的未婚妻。

这种懦弱是可以理解的吧。在坚持正义和活着之间,他选择了苟且偷生。

张一曼
最后就是张一曼了。张一曼,这个角色,唉,真的,怎么说呢?

她是一位独立女性,她乐观、任性、洒脱,有自己的思想。在性方面,她完全颠覆了传统女性的观点。在1942年这个时间背景,实际上她身上背负很多压力,所以她会说不想离开学校,因为学校更自由。

她无疑是美丽的,虽然她向往自由,行为看起来有点放浪不羁,但是她本性不坏。她去睡服铜匠,不是为了那一月三万的法币,是因为她知道那笔钱对于学校教育是多么的重要。

她骂铜匠牲口,一是想帮校长解围,不想让事情穿帮。二是想让铜匠回家,过属于他自己的生活,只可惜铜匠不懂她的良苦用心。

她甘心受辱,自扇耳光,甘愿被剃阴阳头,她所有的委曲求全都不是为了自己,而是为了她心中的理想,为了那一群贪婪小人各自的利益。

她最后的死,是解脱,因为那个时代容不下她超自由的观点。但是她死的很委屈,死因是其他人一次又一次的,自私的把自己的主张、情感、思想以侮辱的方式加强给了她。她离去的方式放大了其他人物的自私、贪婪。

这些角色已经很精彩了,但是这部电影的深度在于它没有对任何人做出评价, 只是在这里讲故事。在每一个小剧情中,或多或少都有我们的影子。毕竟,人的本性多少是有些自私,贪婪的。这部电影像一面镜子一样,让我们好好看看自己,是不是经过人生的某些转折点时做过一些不该做的东西,变得丑陋了呢?如果有的话,这部电影在告诉我们,如果再这样继续下去的话,你的下场会是如何的不堪。

没看过的朋友,可以看一下这部电影。真的很好看。

那好,我们下周见。

Hi everyone, it’s Kaycee.

I want to talk about a 2016 Chinese film today, called《驴得水》, Mr. Donkey. It was a play initially and then it was made into a film. I watched the play first, then the film and after watching the film, oh my god, did I cry. I’d say this is one of the best Chinese films in the last 10 years or so.

Mr Donkey is absurdist comedy set in 1942, about a group of morally questionable teachers from the city who set up a school in a poor, rural area of China with the dream of providing education to those who are in poverty. Life is hard but the teachers get along well and are happy until the education authorities sent some people down to inspect the school. A teacher going by the name of Mr. Donkey has a secret to hide, and just when everyone thought the secret was going to be exposed, their saviour appeared but who knew this was just the beginning of the real disaster.

Warning, plot spoilers ahead.

If absurdist comedy is done well, it can excellently portray human nature whilst keeping the surprise element and Mr Donkey exhibits human greed extremely well. There are five key characters in the film, the Headteacher, Pei Kuishan, Zhou Tienan, Zhang Yiman and the Coppersmith. Again, for Chinese names, I’m saying their surnames first.

In the very first scene of the film, we see a little bit of greed in the four teachers, the Headteacher, Péi Kuíshān, Zhou Tienan and Zhang Yiman. In the meeting where they were discussing whether to give students scholarships, they looked at their accounts and discovered that everyone had used public funds for personal purposes somewhat. It’s not a huge deal in this context but it does set the pretext that these characters are all encompassing some sort of selfishness. And at the back of the school, there is a donkey living in a makeshift hut and the hut caught fire. The combination of these two scenes foreshadow the real disaster yet to come.

The good intentions of these four characters are about to be tested and completely destroyed.

校长
The Headteacher

The Headteacher is what’s known as a typical practical intellectual, he can do a lot of bad things to achieve a good thing, he believes in the saying that people with big goals should not be hindered by small things. For him, his big goal is to run the school.

The Headteacher’s personality basically stays the same; he appears gentle and softly spoken. But we get to see how again and again his limits are tested and lost.

At the beginning, he built a school in this rural little village, which is a great, respectable thing to do. Then, in order to obtain funding for the school, he lied and wrote in the report that there is another teacher going by the name of Mr Donkey, which, in reality, is the actual donkey at the back of the school. The lie becomes bigger and bigger and bigger and brought danger to everyone around him.

For his dream, he lowered his bottom line again and again, forgetting why he had the dream of running a school in this rural village in the first place. People with big goals should not be hindered by small things, right? For his “big goal”, he sacrificed the “small things” of other people’s dignity, freedom and sentiments.

He asked the Coppersmith to be Mr Donkey, he agreed that Zhang Yiman should sleep with the Coppersmith to get him to agree to play the part of Mr Donkey. He let Pei Kuishan indulge in his greediness and flaws. He sacrificed Zhang Yiman and allowed her to be verbally abused and insulted by the others and personally cut her hair to exhibit her shame. He even sacrificed his own daughter.

After everything that happened, we ask ourselves, is it worth it?

铜匠
The Coppersmith

The Coppersmith started off being a kind and innocent man with no particular desires or education. After he was trained, educated and slept with, he changed.

The Coppersmith is a stereotypical image of a scumbag, showing what a timid person without much education but a lot of power looks like.

This character is almost an irony of education, a teacher can teach you knowledge but they cannot teach you how to be a good person. The wrong way of teaching is often counterproductive. Without proper education, no matter how much you know you can still be a scumbag.

裴魁山
Pei Kuishan

And, of course, there is Pei Kuishan. Pei Kuishan is the real bad guy in this, I think. He loves money and is utterly selfish. The only good thing about him was the kindness he showed to Zhang Yiman when he was pursuing her. But when he was rejected and after Zhang Yiman slept with the Coppersmith, his values began to change. This tiny little bit of innocence that he still had left in him disappeared. Since he couldn’t have Zhang Yiman, he chose to destroy her. Very extreme, terrifying.

When his own interests were violated, he shouted “Why do you use your moral standards to kidnap my interests”.

I thought about this sentence for a very long time after I watched the movie. If we look at the sentence on its own, it seems fine. We all have the right to choose how we live our lives, right? But I cannot agree with what Pei Kuishan did, at all. Maybe it was because he was being too extreme.

I think the sentence is also missing a definition for moral standard. It’s important for someone to have the right kind of views and moral standards, of course, this correctness is a scale, there are just some things that can’t be black and white.

周铁男
Zhou Tienan

Zhou Tienan, the only character in the film with a backbone, who is righteous and courageous. He was the only one who opposed to Zhang Yiman sleeping with the Coppersmith, the only one who didn’t insult Zhang Yiman like the others did. But when he was shot at and the bullet missed his head by mere millimetres he got scared. He knelt down and surrendered himself, he became rogue and allowed himself to be used the other side. He even persuaded the girl he liked to pretend to be someone else’s fiancé.

I guess this is cowardice. But you can’t really blame him right? He had a gun to his head. Between maintaining justice and being alive, he chose to be alive but not really living.

张一曼
Zhang Yiman

Zhan Yiman is an independent woman, optimistic, headstrong, free and easygoing. She has her thoughts and ideas. In terms of sex, she completely subverted the views of how a traditional woman should be like. With the year 1942 as the backdrop, she had a lot of societal pressures, which is why she refused to leave the school. She found the school to be more freeing than the outside world.

She is undoubtedly beautiful, although in her pursuit of freedom her actions may seem a bit… disagreeable, shall we say? She’s not bad in nature. She slept with the Coppersmith, not because she wanted the money but because she knew how important the funding was to the school.

She insulted the Coppersmith and called him an animal because she wanted to help the headteacher and not let the secret out, and because she wanted to let the Coppersmith go home and live his own life. But, unfortunately, the Coppersmith heard the insults without understanding her true intentions.

She was willing to suffer through the humiliation of slapping herself and having her hair cut off. She did these things not for herself but for the ideals that she held in her heart, to fulfil the wishes of the greedy people around her.

Her eventual death was an escape. An escape from the period of time that couldn’t tolerate her views but she still died an unfair death. The cause of her death was essentially other people forcefully placing their opinion, their emotions and their ideals upon her, weighing her down. The way she died only amplifies the selfishness and greed of the other characters.

As we can see, these characters are themselves exciting enough but the depth of this film is in that it doesn’t make a commentary as to what’s right or wrong. It just tells a story. In every scene, we see a little of ourselves. After all, there is always a little bit of selfishness and greed in human nature. This film is like a mirror, it lets us to have a proper look at ourselves to see if there was a point in our lives where maybe we’ve done something we shouldn’t have? and If so, the film shows us that, if we continue like that, how our lives could end up.

For anyone who’s not seen it yet, I strongly recommend the film and I’d be interested in hearing your views so please get in touch.

See you next week.

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