With Batman vs Superman, The Revenant and other popular films occupying cinemas around the city, a 3D remake of the classic Chinese opera The White-Haired Girl sneaked past viewers on March 25.
Most Chinese children are familiar with the story of Yang Bialao, Huang Shiren and Xi’er. Some children can even sing a part of the song related to the three, but few know the whole story.
The White-Haired Girl is set in a small village in the north before the liberation of China. Yang is a poor peasant who loses his wife and has a daughter named Xi’er. Yang and Xi’er depend on each other, and Auntie Wang and her son Wang Dachun often help Yang and Xi’er. Dachun and Xi’er gradually fell in love, and the families are engaged.
The tyrannical landlord Huang Shiren admires the young and beautiful Xi’er and frames Yang, forcing him to pay for his debt. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, Yang signs a contract with Huang to sell Xi’er. Wracked by guilt, he commits suicide at home.
On the first day of the Chinese New Year, Xi’er is tortured and taken to Huang’s home. Huang also steals Wang Dachun’s land and kicked him and his and auntie out of the village. Dachun joins the Red Army and becomes a soldier after leaving the village.
Without Wang Dachun and Yang Bailao, Huang repeatedly rapes Xi’er.
Xi’er ends up pregnant and escapes from Huang with the help of a maidservant. She gives birth to the baby on the way but the child dies. Xi’er lives alone on the mountain in misery and her hair turns white overnight.
Xi’er often goes to a nearby temple in search of food, where she is mistaken as a “white-haired witch” by superstitious villagers.
When the Anti-Japanese War begins, Dachun returns to the village to work. Huang spreads rumors about the white-haired witch and Dachun decides to investigate.
Dachun meets Xi’er in the cave and takes her back to the village. Huang is punished for what he did to Xi’er and she returns home. Eventually, her hair becomes black again and she lives happily with Dachun.
The story of white-haired girl has been made into ballet opera, book, TV series, Chinese opera, play and black-and-white film.
The new film was made with 3D effect and surreal colors. The production team invited famous national opera singer Lei Jia to play the white-haired girl. Reviewers said that though there were not many people in the cinema, the old story in the new style is worth revisiting.