“Xia Wu Guo Qu Le Yi Ban” / through the eyes of…

“Xia Wu Guo Qu Le Yi Ban” seen through the eyes of Matti Ullrich, member of the team of Berlinale Shorts

“Look what Grandpa’s bought you!”  “Grandpa’s bought you a huge watermelon.”

When Xiao Lei and his family visit his Grandpa, the old man greets them with a watermelon. The wheelchair, meant for Grandpa himself, is barely big enough to carry the fruit around. When summertime comes, a watermelon is the best way to cool down in China. And with a big one like this, everyone in the family can have their fair share. 

Director Zhang Dalei lets us peek into his memory; at least, it certainly feels that way. A deeply personal retelling of family life and the echoes of times long since passed spent visiting his grandfather. Xiao Lei eats with the old man, shows him what he’s been up to in life, the film he’s finished working on. Then they just sit around flicking through old photos. Xiao Lei will always remember the sweet taste of that watermelon.

When I think back to visiting my grandparents as a child, I remember everything to be different from normal. The food tasted different, all my senses were heightened. Time moved at a different pace when I was around them. This film captures exactly that feeling. 

A sense of melancholy hangs in the air. In the distant music the wind carries into the sheltered backyard where Xiao Lei sits and waits for the day to be over. The calm of the afternoon is pregnant with imminent departure. Everything is at ease, the world has slowed down. There is no urgency, no rush when they say goodbye. Especially as it could be for the last time. 

We don’t see the watermelon being cut up or eaten. We only see pieces of it left on the table. A few bites taken, but otherwise untouched. The seeds carefully collected in a little pile. We see the bucket of water in which the melon cooled standing empty on the grass. Reflecting the sunlight in an ever changing pattern on the wall. 

“Next year, when the apricots ripen, will Xiao Lei come back again?” 

Matti Ullrich is the viewing & programm intern of Berlinale Shorts 2021 and is studying Film Studies at the Free University Berlin. You can find him on letterboxd.

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