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Return To Dust

Ma Youtie and Cao Guiying are the outcasts of their families. In order to get rid of them, the families marry them off to each other and send them to an abandoned house.


The saddest films of all time are the neo-realist masterpieces LADRI DI BICICLETTE (1948) and UMBERTO D. (1952) by Vittorio de Sica. RETURN TO DUST by Ruijun Lee is in that same league. Anyone who doesn‘t come out of the film feeling completely emotionally devastated has no soul.

Ma Youtie (Renlin Wu) and Cao Guiying (Hai-Quing) are the outcasts of their respective families. She has been beaten up so often that her leg has gone stiff and has become incontinent. He is the fourth brother in his family and is being exploited by his third brother. In order to get rid of them both, the families marry them off to each other and send them to an abandoned house. While they are still being bartered over, a kind of bond forms between them. Guiying sees how Youtie comforts a donkey that his brother has just beaten. She pets the animal, he has been hiding in the stable out of shame, but she gazes in his direction for the first time. Youtie begins to lovingly care for Guiying after the wedding. They sacrifice to their ancestors, among them their two dead older brothers, and ask for marital bliss. They have nothing but a donkey and a small piece of land and have to move from one abandoned house to the next because the city has put a premium on tearing down abandoned houses. A form of love and happiness develops between Youtie and Guiying. He is happy about the swallows that have settled in the house and begins to press mud bricks for their own home.

The fact that the story has no happy end is already revealed by the title. RETURN TO DUST is harrowing neorealist cinema with great images and big feelings.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Yin Ru Chen Yan
China 2022, 133 min
Genre: Drama
Director: Li Ruijun
Author: Li Ruijun
DOP: Weihua Wang
Music: Peyman Yazdanian
Distributor: rapid eye movies
Cast: Wu Renlin, Hai Qing
Release: 02.03.2023




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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