Black Coal, Thin Ice / 白日焰火 (Diao Yinan, 2014)

Black Coal, Thin Ice was screened in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival, eventually winning the prestigious Golden Bear award. Whilst it wasn’t in competition at the London Film Festival, its proceeding reputation still created a degree of interest amongst the cinema goers at this year’s LFF. So did it live up to the hype?


The thriller centres around a police investigation into mysterious murders, where people’s body parts are found scattered across a large area of China in, amongst other places, coal transportation centres. Quickly the deaths are linked to one woman: Wu Zhizhen (as portrayed by Gwei Lun-Mei). It is up to the film’s eventual main protagonist – Liao Fan’s Zhang Zili -to get close to her and solve the riddle.

It is a gripping police thriller with some highly memorable and shocking scenes. The pacing is fantastic, and left me on the edge of my seat throughout. Stylistically the cinematographer Dong Jinsong has worked well with director Yinan, and between them they’ve done fantastic job with some great framing that made use of the surplus of snow on offer on the shoot.


With strong performances from the two lead actors, it was clearly a justified winner of the Golden Bear. I highly recommend seeking it out if you get the chance.

白日焰火 is released in cinemas in the UK in 2015.

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