Lecture Notes in Education
Psychology and Public Media

Uncharted Surrealism: the Emotional Cartography in Diao Yi'nan's Films


Siwei Liu * 1

1 Department of English/ East Asian Studies, Mcgill University

Corresponding Author

Siwei Liu


urban space, emotional cartography, surrealism, Chinese cinema, Diao Yi'nan


In the contemporary time, the Chinese cinema has seen the emergence of various cinematic strategies in representing filmic cities. Among the sixth-generation directors, the topophilia strategy is most frequently discussed. However, Diao Yi'nan, an often neglected sixth generation director, emerges to the spotlight with his ground-breaking crime drama, Black Coal, Thin Ice and continues to gain attention ever since. Differing from the typical topophilia approach, Diao adopts distinct cinematic strategies to explore the intersection of individual sentiments and urban spaces. This essay builds itself on past research to analyze these strategic differences. The key theory adopted is the "emotional cartography", a psychogeography concept that explores the intersection of spatiality and subjectivity. Viewing filmic city as an "emotionally heightened space", the emotional cartography allows for the unveiling of hidden social relations as mediated by feelings and sensibility in a specific spatial system. The anxiety of living in a fleeting material world and changing social relation could be thus seen as the implicit political message hidden in Diao’s narrative. The second part is built on past research and analyzes the narrative force of Diao Yi'nan's film. Affirming the logic of "atypical affects" (奇情) proposed by Qi Wei, the second part argues that the logic of atypical affects is also the underlying force for Diao's emotional cartography. Last but least, the essay argues for Diao's use of surrealism adheres to the logic of affects and externalize characters' psychologies.


Siwei Liu. Uncharted Surrealism: the Emotional Cartography in Diao Yi'nan's Films. LNEP (2021) LNEP ICEIPI 2021: 357-365. DOI: 10.54254/lnep.iceipi.2021239.


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