The Breaking Ice

The Breaking Ice ★★★

ZFF 2023 #28

The actual drama of The Breaking Ice – three dissatisfied souls meet and gently, inadvertently push each others' lives in different directions – is almost generic to the point of being trite. What makes Chen's film intriguing, however – beyond the Jia Zhangke-inspired neon imagery of northeastern China – is how it finds cracks within its rather rigid narrative structures that allow it to explore topics I would not have predicted a state-funded Chinese film to wade into: the designated protagonist's suicidal tendencies, for example, paint a much darker picture than the ostensibly hopeful ending – one of economic rebirth in the vast expanse of the People's Republic – might convey; and the constant simmering tension between the three leads hints at an undercurrent of bisexuality a freer production might have sought to make more explicit.

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