The Golden Era recounts the life of Xiao Hong蕭紅, one of China’s most famous modern novelists and essayists, whose lyrical works reflected progressive thinking not frequently seen during the turbulent 1930s. Directed by award-winning director Ann Hui許鞍華, the movie opens with the main character announcing the dates of her birth and death directly to the audience. The narrative style of filming was very different, with characters accounting their experience with the protagonist Xiao Hong directly to the camera.
Born into a well-off family in Manchuria as Zhang Naiying, Xiao Hong (Tang Wei湯唯, from “Lust, Caution”) experienced an unhappy childhood fraught with paternal abuse. She later brought shame to the family by avoiding an arranged marriage and running away with a married cousin to Beijing. That didn’t last, and she was left destitute in Harbin where she winds up with the man she was suppoused to marry, who also ditches her in a hotel – pregnant, penniless and saddled with a $600 debt (a huge amount during those times).