Ghostly Haunting and Moral Interrogation
in Wang Xiaoshuai’s Red Amnesia

By Yanjie Wang

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 29, no.2  (Fall 2017), pp. 34-65

The essay analyzes Wang Xiaoshuai’s recent film Red Amnesia (2014) with a focus on how the film recounts repressed memories associated with the Cultural Revolution and, in particular, the Third Front Movement. Attending to the ghostly haunting that permeates Red Amnesia, this paper elucidates Wang’s use of this trope to critique the prevailing culture of forgetting in today’s China. The return of the ghostly is both a symptom of the hegemonic discourse and a means of contesting it, urging that unresolved historical issues be addressed. The first section draws attention to the film’s engagement with the politics of inheritance. By showing the hereditary effect of the past on its characters, Red Amnesia stresses the continuity of past and present, effacing the line between past memory and today’s reality. The second section highlights the image of the ghost as a sign of haunting, which brings unwanted memories into the light of consciousness, confronting the guilty with their past misdeeds. The last part examines Wang’s probe into the deep roots of the ghostly haunting. The essay suggests that this film goes beyond the general criticism of the Cultural Revolution as a national calamity. Rather, the film compels us to interrogate the moral responsibility of ordinary individuals for instigating and sustaining historical violence.