The English Chamber Orchestra Escorts The Goddess @ BFI London Film Festival - Queen Elizabeth Hall

The light from the Electric Shadows

A massive screen was set at Queen Elizabeth Hall to welcome The Goddess, a standout achievement of the silent era starring an iconic figure of the Chinese cinematic legacy, Ruan Lingyu. Part of the Electric Shadows, a year of film collaborations between Britain and China, The Goddess, meticulously restored by the China Film Archive, included the UK premiere of a new score by prominent Chinese film and classical composer Zou Ye.

Against an imposing room, the musicians of the English Chamber Orchestra with their strings and horns and general sonic paraphernalia sat ready to support Lingyu in her dreaded misfortunes in the streets of Shanghai.

Her deep-felt sorrow, enhanced by a rough personal tale in its own right, didn't have the outlet of loud words, but it shot through a wide spectrum of nuances in the actress's expressive eyes. Ye segued compositionally through his silences and crescendos, giving body to a humanistic tale not of a prostitute, ultimately, but of a mother like any other.

A story and a score not pursuing the groundbreaking in their concept, they flee melodrama with subtle interpretations and grounded realism. A prostitute who fights for the right to education as a weapon, despite the miseries indiscriminately thrown at her, she touches the emotions with her unyielding sense of perception, to the film's true credit. A soprano's final mourning wail followed the heartbreak, but Lingyu's conviction, newly as a jailbird, was ever present. "Goddess" is an ironic term for a prostitute, but the heroine brought down all stereotypical behaviour thrown at her profession with levelheadedness and dynamism.

Behold the true Goddess, and in the Queen Elizabeth Hall she found a new voice.

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