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A Film Review of From the Jaws of Death: A 78-Year-Old Sister’s Hard Path of Following God
By Yi Nuo, Japan
A 78-year-old woman miraculously awakens after she is in a state of unconsciousness for eighteen hours. Such a thing will be absolutely something unheard of before and be enough to call the attention of the majority of people. Just as the doctor in the film says, “I’ve never met this medical case during the last more than twenty years. But for I saw with my own eyes, I would not believe the truth.”
The plot of this low-budget short film is easy and it tells us a story of Liu Zhen, a 78-year-old woman, believing in God in the rural area of China. Under the environment of the atheistic CCP government’s persecution of faith in God, Liu Zhen’s families who don’t believe in God prevent her from believing in God for fear of the threat of the CCP government, and a series of stories ensue. The highlight of this story is that the heroine miraculously wakes up from an eighteen-hour state of unconsciousness. This film is in a simple and natural style, full of provincial air. The heroine in this film, speaking asides, seems to tell her story to the audience face-to-face, shortening the distance between the film and the audience.
It is called “From the Jaws of Death,” and the “death” here is a pun: On one hand, the superficial understanding of it is that the heroine suddenly relives after an eighteen-hour state of unconsciousness, during which everybody thinks she has no hope to be saved; on the other hand, it implies that Christians will all have to experience varieties of persecutions and afflictions in believing in God in China where atheism is highly praised. They not only suffer capturing, monitoring, fining and home searches of the CCP but bear misunderstandings, abandonments and mudslinging of those unbelievers. These persecutions and afflictions are like the time after time of trials of death; this is the profound meaning of “death.” However, after experiences, what man gains is a true knowledge of God and a true faith in God.
The movie opens with a woman called Liu Zhen who picks up vegetables in the field while singing hymns to praise God. The brightly colored scene pleases people and shows the heroine’s optimistic and active attitude of life. Being delighted, her families see that Liu Zhen seems to be far different from before after believing in God, not merely recovering from illness but having penetrating views on some things. Here briefly explains the changes after her believing in God and gives people a visual message: Believing in God is a good thing, a proper path of life, and of benefit to people.
Subsequently, the plot has a transition. Many believers in God in her village have been arrested by the CCP police and under the instruction of Chief Ma of the local police station, the village head persuades her and then takes her to the police station. Soon the dramatic scene in the police station happens: Chief Ma looks down on Liu Zhen, the old countryside woman in the beginning and analyzes the situation with a “mild” attitude, intending to let her no more believe in God. Unexpectedly, the word of Liu Zhen, “Why does a government of a great country make a difficulty for an old woman who believes in God?”, makes Chief Ma dumfounded in a moment. “You personally have gatherings at home. You act against the government. It is not lighter than murder and committing arson. Do you understand?” The sophistries of Chief Ma make bare the CCP’s despicable intention of persecuting belief. It knows clearly that the believers in God are the good, but it must arrest them, equating the proper religious activities with criminal offenses. What sort of logic can it be?! It is really evil! Seeing his soft words are not effective, Chief Ma rebukes, “Well, answer me quickly. Do you think we dare not to deal with you, an old woman?” This line is so classic. Though the language is somewhat vulgar, it is plain, in accordance with the tone of the speech of the CCP’s officials very much. The naked threat is an exposure of the high-handed policy of the atheistic CCP toward Christians: They are not allowed to, must not, and forbidden to believe in God; anyone who believes in God will be captured and be deprived of his life. It is obvious that people’s believing in and following God has become the CCP leaders’ anxiety. They think none will follow them and continue to be deceived and controlled by them if people all believe in God. When Liu Zhen’s son and daughter-in-law asks Chief Ma to let Liu Zhen off for the purpose of saving her, Chief Ma frightens the couple who don’t know the inside story. As can be seen from their panicky and helpless expressions, the words of Chief Ma succeed. Trying to profit from others’ misfortune, Chief Ma asks a fine of 3,000 yuan of the son. In the western democracies, faith in God is free and open, while in China one will be arrested or fined due to faith in God; besides, his families will have to live in constant fear and be involved in. This is indeed irony!
In fact, the families of Liu Zhen are not bad and they originally supported her faith in God. However, they have to block Liu Zhen from believing in God for they are deceived by the rumors of the CCP and afraid of its despotic power. At table, the daughter-in-law who loves money as much as life itself complains that Liu Zhen has brought disasters to the family for the sake of the fine of 3,000 yuan, asking Liu Zhen not to believe in God in the future; considering that she is his own mother, the simple and honest son dare not to say much, but his heart extremely worries within: The CCP persecutes belief and forbids people’s faith in God, while my mother holds onto believing in God. It seems that the CCP’s disturbances can’t be avoided later. Additionally, thinking of the words of Chief Ma, he worries his elderly mother will be put in the prison someday and then all the family will be in a state of anxiety; the primarily important thing is that the jails of the CCP are not the places where man can stay. As a son, how can he have the heart to see his mother suffer there? Moreover, he has to bear the bad name of an unfilial son. He can say nothing but bend his head to mope; her husband, who thinks that “He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home,” “the less trouble the better,” no more supports her faith in God, blames her for the trouble she brought to son and daughter-in-law, and worries she will be sent to prison if she continues to believe in God. The threats of the CCP police can’t scare her but the originally happy and harmonious family is covered up a layer of shadow because of this matter. Under the CCP’s autocratic domination, its people have a psychology of being afraid of officials and slavishness of submitting to harsh treatment with no resistance, and they cannot but choose to compromise to protect themselves. Since the government opposes, why shall one act against it? Can one not lead a life if he has no faith in God? At the time, Liu Zhen exposes a misery expression. The keynote of the film begins to turn oppressive and heavy.
When Liu Zhen meets two believers on her way to the field, she exposes a long-lost smile. This is a rare warm and moving frame in this film. Through the assistance and comfort of these two believers and under the leadership and provision of, she has confidence once again. I think of the Lord ’ word, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them” (Mat 18:20). Many people can pay attention to the scenes where Liu Zhen has meetings in the cotton field and reads God’s words before a cooking stove in the light of the flashlight. These are exactly created in the special Chinese environment, where people cannot have meetings freely in public or even read God’s words naturally and freely at their own homes. Feeling curious, I can’t help reflecting upon in what difficult situation the Chinese Christians believe in God?
There is a scene in this film: When Liu Zhen is helpless and suffering, she watches the cool moon outside the window, her longing for God beyond all words. Although she is not in the prison, she feels as if she is in it, without the slightest personal freedom: being incapable of having meetings, praying, reading God’s words or getting the understanding of her families, meanwhile, bearing the constant disturbances of the CCP police at home. All of this puts Liu Zhen in extreme pain. What she suffers is exactly what the Christians on the Chinese mainland have suffered or are suffering. In this atheistic authoritarian state, the CCP not only restricts the personal freedom of its people, but confine their thoughts and control their opinions, making a fool and slave of them by using atheism, evolutionism and the traditional cultural education. To those who are somewhat awakened, it, upholding the rule that “Submit to me or perish,” uses violence and revolution to treat them. In such a state ruled by this evil party, one must believe in God at the cost of his life. If one has no courage, it will not do.
After Liu Zhen is unconscious, her son feels remorse to the point of tears, “Mother works hard all her life and hasn’t enjoyed life. Late in life, she just wants to believe in God and read God’s words, yet we haven’t given her such a little freedom.” The sincere performance of the actor makes people drop tears immediately, and think: Why do people always regret after they have lost? Is the mother’s desire of believing in God unreasonable? Why is a thing that is extremely easy to gain in the free and democratic western countries so difficult to be realized in China governed by the CCP?
At first, I felt curious that she, an old countryside woman, should have courage and wisdom to retort the official of the CCP; faced with the opposition of her families, she should have the courage to hold on to her faith. Just as her husband says, “I haven’t found you are so stubborn since I lived with you. In faith in God, you are like a mule.” When continuing seeing the film, we can have a clearer knowledge: It is God’s words that give her confidence and power! Theever said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is ” (Mat 5:10). Persecutions and afflictions accomplish good testimonies. The path to the kingdom of heaven is forever uneven but full of difficulties and frustrations. Liu Zhen’s marvelous experience of reliving from death bears testimony to God’s wondrous deed. Persuasive than any language is this testimony—only God, rather than any individual, community or political party of a state, can preside over and command the fates of humanity. Despite in persecutions or afflictions, as long as we man don’t lose the heart to seek and to to God, God will be with us and help us go through any difficulties.
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