Review: The Eye of Silence (China, 2016)

A brooding thriller set amidst the hedonistic modernity of Beijing.

By , 27 Mar 17 05:40 GMT
Amelie and Coco having some very Beijing 肉串 (meat skewers).

Here on Cinema Escapist, we’ve reviewed Chinese movies about clubbing, murders, and “some getting rich first” under the new reign of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Now, we’re reviewing The Eye of Silence — an indie film set in Beijing that covers all of those topics in a single 1.5 hour sitting.

The film is technically a French-Chinese co-production, with Frenchman Emmanuel Sapolsky as director, but the cast, dialog, and setting are fully Chinese. Consequently, a few French influences remain — our movie’s protagonist is Amelie (inspired by the movie), a late 20’s Chinese woman who happens to speak fluent French. She and her best friend Coco (Chanel, anybody) are out hunting for rich husbands in Beijing’s clubs, living a lifestyle filled with tight dresses and free-flowing champagne. However, one, night, a drinking game with two wealthy guys goes horribly wrong and leaves Coco dead.

At this point we learn that Amelie has a superpower — for some reason, she can see in the dark (“like a cat”) — and she clearly witnessed Coco’s murder even though the two men who perpetrated it did it with the lights switched off, supposedly out of sight. As the only witness to the crime, Amelie must decide what to do: pursue revenge, report to the authorities, or nothing at all.

I won’t spoil the ending, but things get pretty dark and the body count rises. The Eye of Silence is an independent film, but it’s definitely not some old black and white art house movie… so you definitely won’t be falling asleep here.

I love harmonious posters. (Screen capture courtesy of FilmDoo)

Besides its surface level status as a thriller, The Eye of Silence ultimately offers much entertainment for people interested in contemporary Chinese society through its backdrop. There’s plenty of “China moments” or #justchinathings shown in the move, including but not limited to people hiring “fake Westerners” to legitimize business dealings, mistress-keeping, drinking games involving tens of thousands of RMB, buying zhanpiao (standing room train tickets), fuerdai (children of noveau riche) driving expensive cars, and shots of harmonious propaganda posters on construction sites.

If you want to watch something with all those tidbits of “some get rich first” China mixed with a thriller, The Eye of Silence should be on your list. Alternatively, if you’re like me and have watched way too many movies with Chinese people clubbing and they’re all beginning to look the same, The Eye of Silence can provide a more meaningful and refreshing twist upon the genre.

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Want to watch The Eye of Silence? Stream it on FilmDoo, a home for films worth watching from around the world.

The Eye of Silence (Chinese: 沉默的眼睛)— China/France. Dialog in Mandarin with limited French. Directed by Emmanuel Sapolsky. Running time 1hr 35min. First released July 2016. Starring Xin Wang,  Bo Sun, and Qing Li. 

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