Gong-Li stars opposite Daoming Chen in Yimou Zhang‘s Coming Home, a film that follows a couple torn apart during the Cultural Revolution in China during the late 60s and early 70s.

Gong-Li On ‘Coming Home’

“During the Cultural Revolution, the main subject or main group that was targeted was cultural figures – so university professors, teachers, doctors – the educated class,” Gong-Li explained to uInterview about the social-political movement in China. “Many of them were sent down to the countryside and suffered greatly.”

In Coming Home, both Gong-Li and Chen play educators; she plays elementary school teacher Feng Wanyu, while he plays university professor Lu Yanshi. Because of their positions in society, they were main targets in Chairman Mao Zedong’s efforts to enforce his particular brand of communism.

“In the case of [Feng’s] husband Lu Yanshi, he’s actually sent to the countryside for education through labor,” Gong-Li revealed. When he returns to their home, Lu finds Feng suffering from amnesia brought on by the emotional tumult of the revolution and unable to remember him.

“This is a strange illness because sometimes when you want something so bad, by longing for her husband for so long, it created this psychological complex where she eventually couldn’t even remember him,” Gong-Li said.

Director Zhang, when explaining the characters of Feng and Lu to Gong-Li, wanted the film to reflect not just the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, but the beauty of the strong bond between the married couple. During their forced separation, all of their efforts go towards reuniting. And, when they are reunited, Lu will stop at nothing to get Feng to remember him.

“It’s that mutual dependence, mutual belief in one another that really is what ties them together and it’s really about how powerful love is and keeping them together, and they’re the kind of couple that will love each other this entire life and probably into their next life,” said Gong-Li. “In that sense, it’s a story about the power of love and the emotional connection between these characters.”

Coming Home is currently in theaters.

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Q: What is your character going through at the outset of the film? -

The film is set during the Cultural Revolution, which took place in China between 1966 and 1976 – a full ten years. During the Cultural Revolution, the main subject or main group that was targeted was cultural figures – so university professors, teachers, doctors – the educated class. Many of them were sent down to the countryside and suffered greatly, so my character that I’m playing she’s actually an elementary school teacher and her husband Lu Yanshi is a university professor.

Both of them were targeted during the Cultural Revolution, and in the case of her husband Lu Yanshi, he’s actually sent to the countryside for education through labor. He secretly returns home, but by that time my character has begun to suffer from a kind of, a form of dementia. It’s actually amnesia in this case. This is a strange illness because sometimes when you want something so bad, by longing for her husband for so long, it created this psychological complex where she eventually couldn’t even remember him.

So some things in life are left behind and you can never get them back, they can’t return. And, that’s part of life and that can’t be changed. But, we also wanted to use this film to make a kind of commentary about the Cultural Revolution and make a statement that atrocities like that will hopefully never happen again. When families are so ripped apart by this kind of violence.

Q: What does the movie say about the nature of love? -

film how it’s really about this mutual support and belief between these two characters. They go to such lengths – both of them. So on the one hand the husband is taking all kinds of steps he can to make her remember him, while at the same time she is doing everything she can to make the husband return, not realizing that he already had.

It’s that mutual dependence, mutual belief in one another that really is what ties them together and it’s really about how powerful love is and keeping them together, and they’re the kind of couple that will love each other this entire life and probably into their next life. In that sense, it’s a story about the power of love and the emotional connection between these characters.