A trek to the unknown realms of China
Stories of Muslim community in China are often unheard. Straying away from usual narrative of Chinese films is the ‘Knife in Clear Water’, which depicts the life of Chinese ethnic group known as Hui people, a Chinese Muslim community. The film, completely shot in the Xihaigu area of the Ningxia province, captures the breathtaking beauty of the place where man, nature and animals are inseparable. The film tells the tale of an old man’s bonding with his old bull and how helpless man is when faced with the question of religion.
The old Ma Zishan has lost his wife and the entire family is mourning. As a mark of respect to the departed, their son wants to sacrifice the only bull they have for her 40 days of purification ceremony. Zishan who is yet to get out of the pain of his wife’s death is now in a dilemma. His love for the old bull makes his days and nights restless. On one side is the ‘purification ceremony’ which has to be performed for his departed wife and the other side is the sacrifice of the bull that has grown old with Ma Zishan.To get out of the struggle he prays and also visits Imam. But nothing could bring him the solace. As if silently giving up to its fate, the bull stops eating and drinking.
Director Wang Xuebo has caught the bonding between the old man and old bull, the main thread of the film brilliantly through a few sequences. On one of such sequence, the old-man in the middle of the night goes to see the bull. The man and the animal stares at each other. In the snowing cold of the silent night, the breath of the animal that faces death reverberates in the air. Some where their heartbeats echoe the same concern – of life and death.