Before I Am Not Madame Bovary (directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Feng Xiaogang), I had never watched a film with Fan Bingbing. To me, she was just an actress with a pretty face who everyone was talking about and wanted to get plastic surgery to be more like her. However, after watching this film, I can understand why everyone is crazy about Bingbing, as her performance was excellent. The film is an adaptation of the novel by the same name written by Liu Zhenyun, who also wrote the script for the film.

In I Am Not Madame Bovary, Bingbing portrays Li Xuelian, a village woman who wants to sue her former husband Qin Yuhe (Li Zonghan), as she states that her divorce was fake because they originally planned to obtain a second apartment that is given to single residents of her town. However, he re-married and obtained the apartment, which Li wants to receive as a compensation. Filled with rage, she does the impossible to bring justice to her case, and also to her name, as her husband has accused her of adultery. The story becomes even more bizarre when it appears that the officials and chiefs who are involved in her case are worried and afraid of her perseverance, as they may lose their job.

The film depicts ten years of Li’s pursuit of justice, from the start to the end of her court case, and it does it in a peculiar way. It starts with shots in a circular shape, which later depending on the location become square and finally the whole screen. This simple but clever way of presenting the character’s story could be seen as the knowledge that the viewer obtains throughout Li’s story. The film develops slowly and steady with surprising twists from the main character. Although people in her village mock Li, the film is set in such a manner that we empathise with her.

I Am Not Madame Bovary deals with other subjects that Li’s court case brings to light. These topics concern social commentary on China, for example, the bureaucratic structure in the country and the position of women in society. It could be said that the moral of the story is to listen to people even though their problems might seem small.

This film is certainly beautiful. The desaturated colours and the images of the rural area fuse with the setting and circular shots to create the idea of a painting. I Am Not Madame Bovary has a brilliant and complex story with stunning cinematography that will surprise you, amuse you, make you sad, and maybe even more.

Original title: 我不是潘金莲 Wǒ Búshì Pān Jīnlián

Trailer | Image: Screenshot I Am Not Madame Bovary – Li Xuelian walking (‘circular shape’ shot).