Wheat took place during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BCE) specifically after the Battle of ChangPing in 260 BCE between the State of Qin (秦) and State of Zhao (趙國). It was one of the deadliest battles in history over a six-month period in which over 450000 Zhao soldiers were either killed or buried alive. The main story centered on the small fortified city of Lu Yi in the State of Zhao, where all the men had gone to war.
Day of Gold:
On the wedding night of Lady Li (Fan BingBing) and Lord Ju Cong (Wang XueQi), the State of Qin invaded the city of ShangDang in the State of Zhao’s territory. The king of Zhao mandated all available soldiers to assemble along ChangPing for a fight-to-death battle against the Qin. Lord Ju Cong immediately mobilized all men over the age of twelve years old in the city of Lu Yi to go to war with him. They left behind only the women to do chores and kept harvesting while anxiously awaiting their return from the war front. Thereafter, while Lady Li was longing in vain for her husband’s news, she saw a bird knocked down a water vat. She consulted a shaman named Ji Si Po (Wang Ji), and she confirmed the sign of a bad omen.
Day of Wood:
In the aftermath of the Battle of ChangPing, Xia (Huang Je) who was an elite warrior of the Qin army decided to go back to his village for harvesting. In an open wheat field, he stumbled upon Zhe (Du JiaYi) as he was joyously running away. Zhe was himself a deserter hiding from plain sight. Risking of death penalty by decapitation and execution of the entire family lineage, both men dared to proceed. They narrowly escaped the Qin’s archers and jumped from a cliff into a river.
Day of Water:
Xia and Zhe were washed downstream to Lu Yi’s riverbank, where they were taken in by the womenfolk. They took both of the men to Ji Si Po for questioning. Apparently, Zhe was injured by an arrow and when Ji Si Po corroborated the arrowhead was Qin’s, the women assumed the men were Zhao’s soldiers. Xia realized he was in the enemy’s territory, and he pretended to be from Zhao. He made sure Zhe to play along until there was a chance to escape. Meanwhile, the cook (Li Ge) started spreading the news about Zhao had won the war at ChangPing, and how the men were returning home. Both men were summoned by Lady Li and Ji Si Po was skeptical about their appearances. Xia assured her by telling Ji Si Po they were from the city of WuSui in northern Zhao. Xia then improvised the outcome of the battle with a tale of State of Zhao’s victory. Upon finished hearing Xia’s narration, the womenfolk paraded the two men in joyous rapture through the street of Lu Yi.
Day of Fire:
Lady Li and Ji Si Po were not entirely convinced. However, they didn’t dwell further as the womenfolk in the city were ecstatic as if Lord Ju Cong himself had returned. The following day after Xia and Zhe woke up from their drunkenness, Xia wanted to flee the city. But, the spineless coward Zhe had another plan; he wanted to take over the city of Lu Yi after realizing the entire male populations were killed at ChangPing. Xia on the other hand, simply wanted to go back to his village to harvest. He was tired of killing for the Qin army ever since he was thirteen years old. That afternoon, while Zhe contemplated his plan, a group of bandits arrived in the city led by Lord Chong (Wang ZhiWen). He divulged the opposite tale of what transpired at ChangPing. At that precise moment, Zhe attacked one of Lord Chong’s men and killed him. A fight between Lord Chong and Xia soon ensued, and Xia easily subdued him. Lord Chong realized that his opponent was a Qin’s elite warrior, and he committed suicide to admit his defeat. His men were captured and forced to work on the wheat fields to harvest before the arrival of the rain storms. Lady Li now had an afterthought of the conflicting story to what happened at ChangPing. She and the other elders discussed the grim possibility Lord Chong was telling the truth. Meanwhile, in his drunken stupor Zhe told the womenfolk about a pendant that Xia carried. He claimed the pendant was his, and that he came from a noble family in WuSui. The pendant was actually a gift from Lady Li to Lord Ju Cong upon leaving for the battle front. Lady Li’s servant, Yan’er (Wang JiaJia), recognized the pendant and left it for Lady Li. In her sorrow to finally knowing the truth, Yan’er hanged herself.
Day of Earth:
The womenfolk bound Zhe and hanged him over the well. Thereafter, Lady Li in her grief ordered the women to commit mass suicide. Meanwhile, the Qin’s army finally arrived outside the city wall. Xia, who actually already left the city the night before, came back trying to warn the citizen of Lu Yi. He confronted Lady Li when she was about to slash herself with a sword. He admitted that he was actually a Qin, but Lady Li already knew it. She was perturbed, and Xia took advantage to knock her unconscious. Using a chariot claiming to be an elite Qin’s warrior, Xia brought Lady Li outside the city wall. By that time, Lady Li awakened by the voices of surviving Lu Yi’s child soldiers. As she was leaving to run after the children, she told Xia to go back to his homeland to harvest.
Wheat is probably He Ping’s most beautifully made period drama, and it’s almost an instant classic. The movie is well acted by its leading star and supporting casts. It’s definitely a stunning production in addition with a magnificent backdrop splendidly shot. Dialogues are performed in a strong well-thought manner.
Fan BingBing’s biggest role to date and she handled her emotional part very well. She blended well with her supporting casts. Zhe, who was the most annoying character played by Du JiaYi was offset by Huang Je’s a strong performance as Xia.
There is little action but by no means Wheat put the audiences to sleep. It’s a superb and compelling movie. It’s a movie highly recommended to see.
Fan BingBing … Lady Li
Huang Jue … Xia
Wang ZhiWen … Lord Chong
Wang XueQi … Lord Ju Cong
Du JiaYi … Zhe
Wang Ji … Ji Si Po
Wang JiaJia … Yan’er
Li Ge … Shaman’s Cook
Chinese Title: 麥田
Director: He Ping
Screenplay: He Ping
Producer: Zhao GuoLiang, Jimmy Wen, Yu Dong, Jeffrey Chan
Director of Photography: Zhao XiaoShi
Art Director: Huo TingXiao
Image Designer: Huo TingXiao
Composer: Liu Xing
Filming Locations: Inner Mongolia, China
Release Date: September 28, 2009
Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
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