Discover Tuesdays / Harbour Lights Picturehouse

Discover Tuesdays: Black Coal, Thin Ice 11/8


Emma Townley, Marketing Manager for Harbour Lights, gives us her thoughts on today’s Discover Tuesdays presentation.

Director: Yinan Diao.
Starring: Fan Liao, Lun-Mei Gwei, Xuebing Wang. China 2014. 110 mins. Mandarin with English subtitles.

This week we bring you Chinese writer-director Yinan Diao’s menacing noir Black Coal, Thin Ice, winner of the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Ex-cop Zili Zhang (Liao) is left traumatised after witnessing a brutal shooting whilst investigating a grisly murder case. In the unsolved murder case, body parts had been chopped up and left in piles of coal by the killer.

Five years on, Zili Zhang is drowning his sorrows in drink. He becomes obsessed with a new murder that follows a similar pattern to the previous case, but has extra, darker details. This is not his only new obsession, as he falls for the first victim’s beautiful and mysterious widow (Gwei).

This neo-noir thriller leaves you seduced and at times you forget to question the who, why and how, and allow yourself to be swept away by the film’s visual beauty. While Black Coal, Thin Ice is wonderfully unique, it echoes the work of great directors such as David Fincher and Tarantino. It is also reminiscent of Carol Reed’s The Third Man.

The beautiful backdrop is mesmerising: falling snow, frozen lakes and cold breath in the dead of night contrast with dazzling, neon city lights. The contradiction between the stunning scenery and the macabre darkness of the crime amplifies the film’s mysterious atmosphere. The plot twists and turns on an unpredictable and entertaining path.

This one is definitely for lovers of noir and murder-mystery. Diao expertly locates the camera in precisely the right place, leaving you with the desire to look closer. The film’s bizarre climax explains why Daylight Fireworks was its Chinese title.

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