• James Rutherford

'A Touch of Sin': A Searing Dramatic Anthology Depicting the Darker Shades of Modern Chinese Society


Movie poster for the 2013 film A Touch of Sin (天注定)

A Touch of Sin (天注定) (2013) is a searing drama-thriller delivered in anthology form and fashioned as a forthright depiction of contemporary China. Broken out into 4 distinct chapters bookended by vignettes of dramatic consequence, its a stunning compilation of real life incidents of undue violence.


Opening with San'er (Wang Baoqiang) traversing rural China by motorbike only to be accosted by a trio of bandits, the storyline reenacts several of China's more high-profile modern criminal cases. In Shanxi, worker's representative Dahai (Wu Jiang) calls out the corruption of local coal mine operators to his own profound detriment. In Chongqing, San'er returns home to celebrate Chinese New Year with his family, inexplicably flaunting newfound wealth. In Hunan, Xiao Yu (Tao Zhao) is enmeshed in a dangerous extramarital affair with Youliang (Jia-yi Zhang), while in Guangdong a Hunan laborer named Xiaohui (Luo Lanshan) inadvertently causes a deadly accident in a textile factory.


Written and directed by Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke (Still Life, Ash Is Purest White), A Touch of Sin is an ambitious exposé of Chinese society in the 21st Century, increasingly beset by malfeasance and bloodshed. Jia's stirring mosaic of criminality paints a dire portrait of demoralization within an increasingly capitalist economy, where worker's rights and human dignity have depreciated perilously. Brutally violent and unequivocal in its portrayal of nihilism as the end game for the most desolate of humankind, it's a deeply piercing vessel of modern social commentary.

 

Watch the trailer: