Opening 17 Nov 2011
It is interesting that the Chinese classic I Ching or the Book of Changes is supposed to be one of the most important international books ever written. I randomly asked twenty strangers if they had ever heard of this book? To my surprise, they all said no. I, on the other hand, have known about this book since the late 1970s. I think that the Book of Changes was very relevant during in the Hippie generation. That is perhaps why this movie didn’t break any ground for me since I also already know quite a lot about the history of China. I was expecting more from this film, but the questions I had did not get answered.
Instead, Bettina Wilhelm explores her grandfather’s past, which takes us to China in the early 1900s and his work as a missionary. Richard Wilhelm was a very busy person and managed to build several buildings including a school and a church in Quingdoa which are still there despite the massive changes in the modern Chinese cityscapes. He is best known for the translations of Confucius, Loatse and the I Ching book, which has been translated into many languages. Wilhelm’s documentary takes us through the significant historical changes that have affected China in the last hundred years. Besides seeing what her grandfather built in China, we see how he fell in love with its culture and its people and its philosophies. She also gives us a glimpse as to what was important about the I Ching book and why so many others were influenced by this book, such as Carl Jung, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. The book is not just an oracle but a philosophical book.
Unfortunately, this documentary is a film that could use a walk on the wild side but plays it academically safe to the bitter end. This film should be viewed by those who are interested in either Richard Wilhelm’s history, Confucianism, Daoism or the I Ching oracle. The oracle may help you find out. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)