Love Will Save the Day
Whilst "Forbidden Nights" was a made for TV movie from 1990 the focus of the movie is a true story which took place over a decade earlier at the end of the 1970's. Now I wasn't even eight when the events in this movie unfolded and as such it would be a lie if I said I truly understood the historic significance of these events. But as such whilst I found "Forbidden Nights" a beautiful and interesting movie which I watched because it starred Melissa Gilbert I am sure those who are more aware of Chinese history will probably find it even more interesting than I did.
With the winds of change moving across China Berkeley student Judith Shapiro (Melissa Gilbert) is invited to go to China and the college in Changsha to teach for two years. It is a complete shock to her from having no running hot water to no lock on her door with people entering without even knocking. But that is nothing compared to when she starts a complicated and forbidden relationship with one of her students, political radical Liang Hong (Robin Shou).
So what we have going on in "Forbidden Nights" is a love story set against a background of political and social unrest in China. The first half of the movie focuses on the dangerous relationship which forms between Judith and Liang as they have to carry on their affair in secret. It is a beautiful, slightly melodramatic relationship but mainly a beautiful one as they almost get caught again and again as they sneak around in the throws of young love.
But this beautiful, clandestine relationship evolves into one of complexity as Liang decides to make a political stand bringing in to question their feelings for each other. It is this side which for those like me are unaware of the history in China will not be so simple to understand as we have the politics of the situation coming to the fore over student protesters. But even if you don't fully understand the political side of the movie it is easy to understand how Liang's politics cause Judith to question whether he was using her.
As for my reason for watching "Forbidden Nights" in the first place, well Melissa Gilbert gives an amusing but also sensitive performance of a young American in China and struggling to deal with the politics and way of life. And Gilbert works well with Robin Shou as Liang, as whilst the romantic aspects of the movie are often overly melodramatic the complexity due to political convictions works well.
What this all boils down to is that "Forbidden Nights" works on a simple romantic level for those who are attracted to watch because it stars Melissa Gilbert but it also has a deeper level which focuses on the politics of China during the late 70's.