The Goddess (Shennü 神女)

Ruan Lingyu
Ruan Lingyu

China 1934, 75', silent/Eng intertitles

Director: Wu Yonggang

Cast: Ruan Lingyu

Introduction to the film by: Elena Pollacchi (Chinese Film scholar and film series curator)

"I watched Ruan’s most famous film, The Goddess, many times, long before Richard [Meyer] did, and each time the film cast an eerie spell on my memory, I never bothered to recall its story-line, but I was haunted again and again by a few scenes of Ruan Ling-yu’s face with all her subtle and nuanced expressions. Thus I, too, became obsessed with Ruan Ling-yu." Leo Ou-fan Lee, January 2004, Introduction to Richard J. Meyer, Ruan Ling-yu. The Goddess of Shanghai, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005 (with the DVD of the film and a video introduction by R.J. Meyer).

Film star Ruan Lingyu was born in a Shanghai Cantonese-speaking family of very modest origins. She left school in 1926 to become an actress and she rapidly became one of the greatest actresses of the ‘Hollywood of the East’. She was under contract with the Lianhua Company, one of the major film production houses in Shanghai. She was the lead actress in many leftist films directed by Chinese silent film masters such as Sun Yu (Little Toys/Xiao wanyi, 1933), Wu Yonggang (The Goddess/Shennü, 1934) and Cai Chusheng (New Women/Xin nüxing, 1934). Her private life was less fortunate and a media scandal pushed her to commit suicide on March 8th, 1935.