In the Heat of the Sun

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In the Heat of the Sun
Directed by Jiang Wen
Produced by Guo Youliang
Hsu An-chin
Po Ki
Written by Jiang Wen
Based on Wild Beast 
by Wang Shuo
Starring Xia Yu
Ning Jing
Music by Guo Wenjing
Cinematography Gu Changwei
Edited by Zhou Ying
Release dates
Running time
134 minutes
Country China
Language Mandarin

In the Heat of the Sun (simplified Chinese: 阳光灿烂的日子; traditional Chinese: 陽光燦爛的日子; pinyin: Yángguāng cànlàn de rìzi; literally: "Days of the bright and lush sunshine") is a 1994 film directed and written by Jiang Wen. This was Jiang Wen's first foray into directing after years as a leading man. The film is based on author Wang Shuo's novel Wild Beast (动物凶猛).


The film is set in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. It is told from the perspective of Ma Xiaojun nicknamed Monkey (played by Xia Yu; some of Monkey's experiences mimic director Jiang's during the Revolution[1]), who is a teenage boy at the time. Monkey and his friends are free to roam the streets of Beijing day and night because the Cultural Revolution has caused their parents and most adults to be either busy or away. Most of the story happens during one summer, so the main characters are even more free because there is no school. The events of that summer revolves around Monkey's dalliances with his roguish male friends, and his subsequent angst-filled crush with one of the female characters, Mi Lan (Ning Jing).

This film is significant in its unique perspective of the Cultural Revolution. Far from the Cultural Revolution-set films of Chinese 5th-generation filmmakers (Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Tian Zhuangzhuang) which puts the era behind a larger historical backdrop, In The Heat Of the Sun is mellow and dream-like, portraying memories of that era with somewhat positive and personal resonances. It also acknowledges, as the narrator recalls, that he might have misremembered parts of his adolescence as stated in the prologue: "Change has wiped out my memories. I can't tell what's imagined from what's real",[2] as the director offers alternative or imagined versions to some events as people seek to romanticize their youthful memories.


The film was a co-production of three Chinese studios, and $2 million USD (about $3182308.04 when adjusted for inflation) of the budget was generated from Hong Kong. Derek Elley of Variety said that the film alters "some 70% of the original" novel and adds "a mass of personal memories."[3] Daniel Vukovich, author of China and Orientalism: Western Knowledge Production and the PRC, wrote that the film version makes its characters "a small group of male friends, plus one female "comrade"" instead of being "violent hooligans".[4]

The original title of film may be translated as "Bright Sunny Days". In the Heat of the Sun was chosen as its international English title for the film during a film festival in Taiwan as a less politicized name to avoid the original title's positive association of the period during the Cultural Revolution.[5]


  • Han Dong - Ma Xiaojun (S: 马小军, T:馬小軍, P: Mǎ Xiǎojūn, young boy)
  • Xia Yu - Ma Xiaojun (teenage Monkey)
    • At the time of filming, Xia was a high school student,[3] and was not a professional actor. Wendy Larson, author of From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and Revolutionary Spirit in 20th Century China, wrote that the selection of "an awkward-looking boy" who "contrasts with the more conventional tall good looks" of Liu Yiku was clever on part of Jiang Wen, and that Xia Yu "portrays [Ma Xiaojun] as charmingly shy and mischievous in social relationships yet forceful and engaging in his emotions."[6] The character has the nickname "Monkey" in the film version. "Monkey" was the nickname of director Jiang Wen.[3] Derek Elley of Variety says that Xia as Xiaojun has "both an uncanny resemblance to Jiang himself and a likable combination of insolence and innocence."[3]
  • Feng Xiaogang - Mr. Hu (S: 胡老师, T: 胡老師, Hú-lǎoshī), the teacher
  • Geng Le - Liu Yiku (S: 刘忆苦, T: 劉憶苦, P: Liú Yìkǔ, teenage)
  • Jiang Wen - Ma Xiaojun (adult; narrator)
  • Ning Jing - Mi Lan (S: 米 兰, T: 米 蘭, P: Mǐ Lán)
  • Tao Hong - Yu Beipei (于北蓓 Yú Běipèi)
    • In the beginning Yu Beipei accompanies the boys and gives rise to sexual tension amongst them, but after Mi Lan is introduced, Yu Beipei does not appear with the group until the second telling of the birthday party. Larson states that Yu Beipei "is a significant character" in the first part of the film and that her disappearance is a "persistent clue that all is not as it seems".[7]
    • Tao Hong was at that time a member of the Beijing Synchronized Swimming Team, which just won the 7th National Games in August 1993. Jiang Wen had intended to find a synchronized swimmer for Mi Lan's role when he visited the team, but after spotting Tao, he cast her as Yu Beibei instead.[8]
  • Shang Nan - Liu Sitian (S: 刘思甜, T:劉思甜, P: Liú Sītián)
  • Wang Hai - Big Ant
  • Liu Xiaoning - Liu Yiku (adult)
  • Siqin Gaowa - Zhai Ru (翟 茹 Zhái Rú - Xiaojun's mother)
  • Wang Xueqi - Ma Wenzhong (S: 马文中, T:馬文中, P: Mǎ Wénzhōng - Xiaojun's father)
  • Fang Hua - Old general
  • Dai Shaobo - Yang Gao (羊搞 Yáng Gǎo)


The Chinese version of the Soviet song "Moscow Nights" features prominently in the film.


The film was commercially successful in China. Vukovich wrote that the film however did cause some controversy in China for its perceived "nostalgic" and "positive" portrayal of the Cultural Revolution.[9]

According to Vukovich, the film "received much less attention than any fifth-generation classics" despite the "critical appreciation in festivals abroad".[9] Vukovich stated that in Western countries "the film has been subjected to an all too familiar coding as yet another secretly subversive, dissenting critique of Maoist and Cultural Revolution totalitarianism",[9] with the exceptions being the analyses of Chen Xiaoming from Mainland China and Wendy Larson.[9]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Very well received in China and the Chinese-speaking world but very obscure in the United States, the film won the 51st Venice Film Festival's Best Actor Award for its young lead actor Xia Yu (Xia was then the youngest recipient of the Best Actor award at Venice) as well as the Golden Horse Film Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. American director Quentin Tarantino also gave high praises to the film, calling it "really great."[10]

It was the first People's Republic of China film to win Best Picture in the Golden Horse Film Awards, in the very year where a liberalization act allows Chinese-language films from the mainland to participate.


  • Larson, Wendy. From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and Revolutionary Spirit in 20th Century China. Stanford University Press, 2009. ISBN 0804769826, 9780804769822.
  • Vukovich, Daniel. China and Orientalism: Western Knowledge Production and the PRC (Postcolonial Politics). Routledge, June 17, 2013. ISBN 113650592X, 9781136505928.


  1. ^ "Interview with Jiang Wen." CNN. July 23, 2007. Retrieved on September 19, 2012.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d "In the Heat of the Sun." Variety. Sunday October 16, 1994. Retrieved on September 23, 2011.
  4. ^ Vukovich, p. 149.
  5. ^ Vukovich, page unstated (Google Books p. PT151).
  6. ^ Larson, p. 174 (Google Books PT187).
  7. ^ Larson, p. 177 (Google Books PT190).
  8. ^ 中国中央电视台 人物 2010.12.20 — 冠军的新人生系列 陶虹 Part1
  9. ^ a b c d Vukovich, page unstated (Google Books PT148).
  10. ^ Quentin Tarantino Interview - KILL BILL And Others by New Cinema Magazine.

Further reading[edit]

  • Qi Wang. "Writing Against Oblivion: Personal Filmmaking from the Forsaken Generation in Post-socialist China." (dissertation) ProQuest, 2008. ISBN 0549900683, 9780549900689. p. 149-152.
  • Silbergeld, Jerome (2008), Body in Question: Image and Illusion in Two Chinese Films by Director Jiang Wen (Princeton: Princeton University Press)
  • Su, Mu (Beijing Film Academy). Sunny Teenager: A Review of the Movie in the Heat of the Sun. Strategic Book Publishing, 2013. ISBN 1625165080, 9781625165084. See page at Google Books.

External links[edit]