12 Citizens

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-24 17:53:01

Chinese adaptation of classic jury drama takes aim at problems in contemporary society

A Chinese adaptation of the Hollywood classic Twelve Angry Men, titled 12 Citizens, was released in cinemas on May 15.

Like the 1957 US version, the film stars veteran actors. Another similarity is that, as the US version was the feature film directorial debut of Sidney Lumet, so 12 Citizens is the first movie by theater director Xu Ang. It won the Marco Aurelio Prize at the International Rome Film Festival last year. Many of the cast are seasoned stage actors.

While 12 Citizens retains the same basic plot and courtroom structure of the original, changes have been made to reflect the differences in the US and China's legal systems.

The film is set in a mock courtroom in a Chinese law school. It is "staffed" by law students who, having failed their exams, have been required by the school to "try" a case, based on an actual case of patricide by a wealthy man.

The jury is made up of the law students' parents.

Scenes from the film 12 Citizens Photos: CFP


A pster for the film   Photos: CFP


Scenes from the film 12 Citizens Photos: CFP

This change - in the original film, the jurors are in a real court discussing whether a man should be given the death penalty for murder - results in a lessening of the stakes and removes a lot of tension from the piece.

Meanwhile, the film is rather heavy handed in its attempt to provide an allegory for modern Chinese society via its 12 main characters, who border on stereotypes.

One juror is a vulgar taxi driver whose bad relationship with his own son makes him the staunchest advocate of finding the "defendant" guilty. He represents those struggling at the bottom end of society. Another is a wealthy real estate developer whose fortune is the envy of the other jurors. He takes part in the jury to help his "foster daughter," a code name for mistress in China, and he represents China's nouveau riche.

Another juror is a rogue who has a weird hairstyle and strange clothes. He was once unjustly imprisoned and thus insists that justice is served. A campus security guard who dreams of going to law school is also on the jury. He represents people from the lower strata of society who have aspirations to move up the ladder.

Since the final judgement is obvious to the audience, the main appeal is watching these different characters debate with each other. However, a twist at the end is awkwardly executed, and leaves the whole film as an ultimately dissatisfying experience.

Global Times

Everyone's a Critic

Ren Kaiwen

21, Student

"I think it is a terrific domestic film. I'm so excited to see 12 veteran theater actors in one film. There is not much setting. The whole story takes place in a closed, fuggy room. It all depends on the dialogue. I think only theater actors can pull this off. I hope there will be more Chinese adaptations of classics in this vein."

Li Huijie

22, Student

"It was far more interesting than I was expecting. There are 12 people, and 12 clear-cut characters. Although it is an adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, it covers many social problems in China, and is very true to life. It encourages us to think independently and to pursue the truth, which is very important in today's society."

Xi Yuling

49, Office worker

"I have also seen Twelve Angry Men. Comparing the two films, I think the biggest difference is the end twist, which seemed far more natural in the original."

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Culture

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