Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Culture / Film and TV

Pushing her boundaries

He Saifei's role won her a Golden Rooster and forced her to find a way to connect to a character unlike any she'd played before, Xu Fan reports.

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-21 06:14
Share - WeChat
A scene in the art-house film Off the Stage. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Off the Stage, He's first lead role in a feature-length movie in the last decade, won the Best Actress award at the 36th Golden Rooster Awards last November.

For her vivid portrayal, He — who was 58 years old at the time of the shoot — overcame a number of challenges, from wearing a qipao dress and walking barefoot across a beach in the winter, to holding ice in her mouth as she delivered lines to prevent her breath from steaming. "As an actor, I believe these are the least things that we should complain about. This is normal in the film industry, and I think I should treat every role seriously," she says.

The film is 123 minutes in length and also stars Yuan Wenkang and Lou Yujian as her character's eldest and second sons, and was given its domestic release on March 8, International Women's Day.

It is adapted from Ai Wei's Guo Wang (Past), one of five winners of the Best Novella Award at the 8th Lu Xun Literature Prize — one of China's top honors for literature — in 2022.

Set in a small southern city, the story revolves around Ms Qi, a former Yueju Opera actress, who returns home after being diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer. Her eldest son, a successful businessman, refuses to reconcile with his long-estranged mother because she left her family to pursue stardom in the provincial capital when they were young.

During a particularly hard time, his youngest sister becomes pregnant after an affair with a married man. Qi remains indifferent to her daughter's fate, even after her eldest son rides a bicycle to her home in the city to ask her for help. In frustration, the son ends up severely beating the married man, earning himself a six-year prison sentence and causing his sister to suffer a mental collapse.

The gentle second son, who is a Yueju Opera actor in a local troupe, is the first to accept their mother, and despite her scheme to steal his girlfriend's debut, her mesmerizing performance wins over them all. In a final act of sacrifice to save her eldest son, Qi succeeds in killing the hitman who's hired to murder the son, upon knowing her own late-stage cancer diagnosis. Thus she reconciles with all her children.

Most Popular
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349