Return to Dust (2022) - full transcript

The humble, unassuming Ma and timid Cao have been cast off by their families and forced into an arranged marriage. To survive, they have to come together and build a home for themselves.

Fourth Brother, why haven't you come in?

Hurry up!

Get moving!

Everyone's waiting to see you

Hurry up!

Come on out!

Hurry up!

Here, wear your brother's new jacket

There's plenty of rice, why have a bun too?

Have some more

I'll serve you more rice

I'm done, you take your time

I'm full

Is the wedding date set?

Tell me when it is

I'll come to the reception

Okay, Uncle

We'll send you a wedding invite

Does your younger son have a fiancée?

Yes, he's engaged

But he has to wait a year before he can marry

If both sons get married at the same time... could I possibly afford it?

Come in and sit down

Here at last

Don't all stand up! Sit down

I should've invited your husband... come for some food and a chat

Oh, he's a stubborn old donkey

Not very sociable

How did that miserable donkey get into the yard again?

The worthless thing!

I keep feeding it, but it's never full!

I should beat it to death for causing so much trouble!

Here, let me pour you some hot water

Guiying, what do you think of Fourth Brother?

Her Sister-in-law, is her name Guiying?

That's right, you remembered

Go for a pee, go on

Uh...she's going for a pee?


Brother and sister-in-law of Guiying...

Look, I'm always frank

So I'll be straightforward

I feel Guiying and Fourth Brother are well-matched

His Third Brother has found them a house to live in

What do you think?

I also think they're a good match

If you think so, we agree


We should check that she's found the toilet

Right, she should be back by now

Guiying, the toilet is over there

Ma Hongmei, take this 200 Yuan first

Sorry to give you the trouble...

...of arranging dates for both Fourth Brother Iron
and my elder son

Young people these days...

...don't like to live with older people

As to my elder son's fiancée...

Could you ask her...

...if she agrees to marry in the spring?

You've made matches for both uncle and nephew

Guiying lives in the backyard of her brother's place

Her life is miserable

Since she was small she's been beaten and bullied

And she can't control her bladder

She can't have children, so who else can she marry?

Anyhow, her brother and sister-in-law...

...can't wait to be rid of her

When Iron marries Guiying...

...he'll move out

Then your elder son's fiancée
will have no reason not to marry

Don't worry, Fourth Brother and Guiying will get married

Thank you so much for matching them

I don't know what I'd do if you hadn't


Close the door when you come back

Don't let the donkey get in there

Get closer, you two

Brother, get closer

That's better

Brother, turn your face more towards your wife

Good, chin down a bit

That's good

Sister, chin up a little

A little bit more

Your shoulder on this side is a bit too high

No, the other side

That's good

Now, both look at me

Sister, look at me


1, 2, 3...



I'm your son Iron

This is Cao Guiying

We've got married

We've come today to burn some paper money for you

Please receive it

Spend it with my eldest brother Gold

And second brother Silver

Enjoy yourselves

Here, have an apple

Eat it

Eat it


Have a fried dough stick

Here, eat


'If the living don't eat, the dead won't receive'


We call on everyone here today... help save Zhang Yongfu

He is sick in hospital now

You can save him

Oh, Zhang Yongfu needs us to save him?

No wonder we haven't seen him for days

He's hiding in the city

We're the ones who need to be saved

He should pay us land rent and wages today

Zhang Yongfu owes you land rent

He also owes the Village Committee for water

But the issue now is that he's sick in hospital

He needs blood transfusions

He has a rare blood-type, in short supply

If anyone has 'panda' blood (RH negative)... can help save him

His son is with us today

The crops we planted last year...

...are not yet sold


We are looking for ways... sell the produce

So that we can pay your rents

And your wages


For this year, take back your own land...

...and cultivate it yourselves

That will count as one year's land rent


Right now the only villager
with 'panda' blood is 'Iron' Ma

I hope you'll help save Zhang Yongfu

Who is 'Iron' Ma?

It must be Fourth Brother Ma

The panda is a national treasure

So Fourth Brother has become a national treasure!

He's not a national treasure, just a panda

Not a panda, just 'panda' blood

No, we won't

If you want to give blood, go ahead

Is there anything you want?

I'm rather scared of going to the hospital

I see, Uncle


I'll call a friend who works in the hospital

I'll ask him to drive the blood collection van to our place

I will drive you...

...into town, to our place, to give blood

Not at the hospital, okay?

Time to go, Uncle!

The car is waiting outside

Stop for a moment

What's up?

Just stop

Hold on, hold on

Wait, I'll open the door

Tell me earlier if you need a pee

How come you peed in the car?

Eat, have something first

You eat too

No problems with the test result

Remove the cotton bud

That's just a tiny bit of blood for the test

It's fine

No transmissible disease in the blood, it's fine

Let's go to the van and take blood there

It's not hygienic here

You stay here, we'll go


Now you can eat something, but not too much

It's alright, don't go

They'll come back when it's done

Here are your wheat seeds

Debit my account please

When the autumn grain is sold...

...I'll settle the account


You gave your 'panda' blood to Zhang Yongfu

Why don't you ask him to buy you seeds and fertilizer...

...and drive them to your home in his BMW?

Why are you still using your own donkey cart?

Why do you still need credit?

Your Third Brother has been exploiting you for years

He didn't even give you a wedding reception!

You could buy a few bottles...

...and we could celebrate your wedding!

Yeah, let's celebrate!

That's enough of your banter

When you urged him to get booze...

...did you see how scared she looked?

She wet her pants!

590 yuan in total

Sign here

I'll do a fingerprint

Yes fine

It's to carry your nephew's wedding furniture

to get your nephew's the wedding furniture

I hired a car but some pieces won't fit in

I thought of hiring a second car

But it's not worth it

You come


Come inside

No, go to bed early

Here, have it while it's hot

Your hand is so deft

It's hot

Just leave it to cool before you eat it

For lunch and dinner...

...reheat the stir-fry in the wok

Have that with the buns

It'll be night before I'm back

It's dark on the road

Take care

I know

Take the buns out of the steamer when they're done

How much is this coat?

400 Yuan

Don't go, you can have it for 300

It's a designer brand

Come back, the bottom price is 150

I only have 50 Yuan

I know

50 more and it's a deal

Okay, save it for me

I'll bring the money on my next trip to town

I'll buy it then, okay?

It's just that my family is desperately short of money

My dad and I would have nothing to drive

The two BMW are not for sale

My dad and I would have nothing to drive

Okay, uh-huh

Can you sell it for 80 Yuan?

Alright then

Only because you are my first customer today

Quickly, quickly


Here's a bag for it


You bought so much furniture!

It's my elder nephew's wedding furniture


I'm carrying it back for him

I see

Here, take the coat

Quickly, take it, quickly

Don't drop it! I've got to go

I'll take it as a loan

I've told you again and again, come back earlier

It's the middle of the night!

It's not that far

You'd been back before dark if you'd crawled!

Careful! Mind the sofa legs

It's the middle of the night

It's freezing cold, why are you out here?

It's hot...Here, you sip some too

The long walk worked up a sweat

I didn't feel cold

The hot water in the jar...

...went cold more than once

I filled the jar again and waited for you to come

Filled it again, you still weren't back


Hold it to warm your hands



Wear this when you go out at night

It's long enough... cover your bottom

And it'll keep you warm

Come, sit on the cart

Don't discard the good seeds

Don't throw out the good seeds

Sit tight and we'll go again


Then they'd dive into the water

I asked if he wasn't afraid of man-eating fish

They dare not stay in the water for long

They dive down and then come up again right away

Straight in, straight out

You poor wretch...

You've worked for your Third Brother for so long

He hasn't even bought you a TV

You still need to visit someone else to watch TV

This is where they wash their clothes and food

But when they wash anything... this spot...

...there will be man-eating fish in the water

Especially in October

So even washing their food...

...becomes impossible

They need to scoop up some water

And then clean the food here

When they wash fish...

...and empty a bucket like this...

...they can see movement in the water

Big shoals of man-eating fish!

What brings you here, Chief?

Oh, you're all watching TV

Please take a seat

I'm fine, don't need to sit

I just came to ask about something

I'd like to know about your neighbor

How many years since he left his house?

Why do you ask?

It's like this

The Village Committee met a few days ago

The government wants to improve
the living environment

Build new countryside better

Demolition of vacant old houses

15000 yuan for demolition

15000 yuan if refurbished

I see

They've been away for 5 or 6 years

Hm, I see

Apparently they all went to work in the South...

...and bought a property down there


That's all, you go on watching

Okay, see you


You wretched thing!

Why did you pee on the stool?

You think a tissue is enough to wipe it clean?

Hey, you forgot the eggs you're borrowing

You are...

...Ma Youwen


You're back

Yes, I'm back

You've come back


The Village Committee telephoned me

They said...

Vacant houses will be torn down,
with 15,000 Yuan compensation

You know about that?

So move out your things in the next couple of days

I've taken a few days off... see to the demolition of my old house

When it's done...

...I'll rush back to work in Dongguan

Here, have a cigarette


Come on, take one

Have some water

No, no, no


Don't worry...

There are lots of empty houses in the village

Move to one that's not being demolished for now


I suggest... load your cart...

...with the wood from the doors and windows

Use it as firewood

Here, let me

A swallow's nest

Well, it won't find its old nest this year


Then let's go

Take care

How about now?
The “Double Happiness wedding symbol”

Up a tiny bit

That's it

I think in a few days...

...chicks will hatch

By the time of wheat harvest...

...the hens might start laying

It can't be helped

It can be fertilizer for the other shoots

Everyone has his own destination

The wheat is no different

It has its fate too

When summer comes...'ll be cut down anyway

Why are you on foot? You could ride on the cart

Too heavy for the donkey

That's what the donkey's for

Worried you'd over-burden it!

If you got that useless idler off the cart...

...the donkey won't be over-burdened!

Anything else?


Okay, let's move to the next one

“Long-vacant property”

Here, take your coat

Hey, look at this

The chicks are hatching

Incubated chicks don't have a mother

So they take the first person they see... their mother

No trouble for you to look after them in the future

Don't help it

Let it stand on its own feet

Let's go...

I'll carry this bucket

Time for food

Come and eat

Wait a bit while I finish molding these bricks

Wait a bit

I need to mold the mud first

Don't go! Don't ever go again

Is the coat alright?

Doctor, take my blood

Instead of his

Just give him a rest

Anyone's blood won't do

That's why...

...we need to keep bothering you

Unclench your fist



Come in and eat first

Come in and eat first

He'll come once it's done

Come on

Don't eat it

It fell on the ground

Don't worry

Everything starts in the soil

Everything grows in the soil

The soil doesn't despise us

How can we despise the soil?

The soil rewards us

Whether you're rich and powerful...

...or an ordinary person

You plant a bag of wheat...

...and it will repay you tenfold

Or even twentyfold

That miserable donkey...

That miserable donkey...

Can't it chew on something else?

Since it ate some corn seedlings...

...we'll feed it one less cob in the autumn

What's eaten was eaten

Take the wicker mat with you

I will walk home first

The donkey has to pull the tiller

if I ride on the cart, my weight could be...

...too much for the donkey


I'll get on with weeding the corn field


I'll fetch you when I'm ready to load the cart

Come to Grandma

Those things are dirty

Come, sit on the cart


Come, sit up here


He really cares for her

He could tie her to his belt

So fond of her

Looks after her well

Not like us, nobody cares

No-one loves us

Or even cares

See, he's very fond of her

Then you should've agreed to marry him!

If you'd married him...

...he'd give you lifelong care

You old fool...

I am just giving you an example

She lives better than any of us

So what?

Men always spoil their women

Have a good rest tomorrow


The old bottles in the eaves...

...are whistling again

Slow down, don't fall over! It's pitch-black out here

Lots of bags have blown away

Don't cry

It's just a few bags

Here, put on this plastic sheet

Don't worry about me, protect the mud bricks

Go back inside, you'll catch cold in this rain

You're crying with laughter!

You haven't caught a cold, have you?

I'm not that weak

I used to live in a shed in my brother's backyard

I'm used to strong wind and rain

No problem

Does this look like our donkey?


Very similar

A straw donkey has it good

Doesn't need to graze, not bossed around

That first time at your Third Brother's house...

...I saw him beat the donkey

My sister-in-law was afraid I might wet myself...

...and that you'd turn me down if you saw

So she urged me to have a pee

I saw you...

...comforting the donkey in the yard

Feeding him corns

This donkey...

This donkey had a better life than I did

I thought...'d be a good man... marry

That day you kept staring at me

I was so embarrassed

I could barely look up

The old men and women at the bridge...

They said I could...

...tie you to my belt

I need to fasten you... case you roll off the roof in the night

It's cooler to sleep up here on the roof


I can hear their TV is on

Go and watch a bit

Go on

I'll give you a shout when the grinding is done

Go and watch TV

I'll sing this song for you

There's no radiation in my bed

I don't need to eat a lot

Don't think it over, don't hesitate

Let me give you a sports car

Yaoting, Yaoting, come and sing along with me


It's yesterday's flour, fresh-ground

A sack for you

When the Jiji hay is used up, come for some more

I will

I'll bring you a couple of sacks of potatoes in autumn

The hay isn't worth much

A sack and a half would be fine

Oh, I took some cow dung from your pasture

When you've burnt it, come for more


Okay, good, good


Pull the donkey


Yes, that's the way

A bit slower...yes, good

Slow down, slow down

Don't fall off!


Be careful




Brother Gold

Brother Silver

This is Iron here

We're building a house

Guiying and I are here to burn you some paper money

Please receive and spend it


The wheat's in ear

Smell it

When the wheat in ear, it smells so nice

We used to have a crazy in our village

He kept muttering the same thing day after day

To the sickle, he'd say “What could the wheat say?”

To the pecking sparrows, he'd say...

“What could the wheat say?”

To the grinder, he'd say...

“What could the wheat say?”

Since it was still in seed form...

...what could the wheat say?

I've heard such things too

We also had a crazy guy posted to our village

He liked saying such things


When I was a little kid...

...other kids would catapult pebbles at him

But our teacher took him under his wing

When he saw the catapulting...

...he'd tell us off angrily

He even fed the crazy guy buns

It's only now that I'm halfway to the grave...

...that I understand what the crazy guy meant

I also gave him food

Because of that... brother and sister-in-law beat me hard

I couldn't walk for a couple of weeks

Hah, we're talking about the same guy

Take a break from it


But I'll finish straightening up these corns first

Come and eat some buns

Let me wash my hands first


Hey, come, down here

I'll wash your hands too

Come quickly


Quick, get some hay and dry wood

Taste some


Doctor, the blood bag is full

It's full!

Take the needle out

It's not full yet, in a moment

Stop it

Sit down and be patient

Here, I bought you a light coat

It's getting warmer

This won't make you sweat

Here you go, take it




Their land rent and wages...

Pay them soon

Those old people in the village...

...have tough lives

They must send grandchildren to school...

See doctors...

Grow crops, pay for seeds and fertilizer

These are all expenses

They all need money

You're pumping blood now

Why are you speaking for them?

Well, I know

When the corn is sold, they will all be paid

The needle is out, get some food

Eat first

You can go on sharpening afterwards

Have some buns

And a sip of water

I'm fine

I mean, don't bother

I want to get all the wheat loaded first

Once it's done, I can relax and have a drink


Slow down

Take it slower

Can you use the fork... lift those last bundles up here?

If I clamber down to fetch them...

...I could damage the ones already loaded

Watch out!

You'll ruin all the ears of wheat!

You're useless!

You've eaten so much wheat

But you can't even load a few bundles

I keep a donkey because it can pull the cart

Come on, sit on the cart

Come on, sit on the cart

Come on, sit on the cart

I put too little weight on the front

If you sit there, you'll balance it

Don't be cross, get on

Go up there

I've made you a nest

You can just sit in it...

...and hold the rope

Hold tight

I planted a flower on you there

Made a mark

So I'll always find you, wherever you go


Good harvest this year

Eat as much as you can

No matter how much food there is... stomach is no bigger

Ouch! wheat rash!

No, don't scratch it

How come so much rash on your wrist?

Stop scratching

You'll make it worse

Come down

Come and have a wash

It will stop the rash on your neck from itching

The water is running too fast today

You can stand between these two logs

I'll hold you tight, don't worry

Come down

It's cold

Come on, it's warm when you're in the water

it's warm in the water

Come on

Lean forward, hold tigh

My feet aren't steady, the water's too fast

It's okay, hold on to the log

I'll wash and rub you

Stay still, I'll give you a good rub

Swallows build their own nests

What swallow would come to live in your nest?

You are Ma Chengwan

You're back

Swallows know their own nests

Their old nest was in the demolished house

Since your new house is built...

...move over in the next couple of days


That's all, I'll be going

Come in and have a seat

No, no, I will see myself off

Do you have a place to live?

Yes, don't worry, I do

Everything moved out?


Then start the demolition

Could you wait for a few more days?

Until the baby swallow hatches and leaves?

I'm rushing back to Shenzhen for work

I don't have time to wait for any swallow

Hurry up

Get a move on!

Just go

Drive up and start demolishing from here

What are you there for?

Off you go

Leave now

Check, is it level?

Up a bit on this side

A little bit more

A tiny bit more

Yes, that's it

Get your food


The sound from the rain bottles
in the eaves is nicer here

Much better than the old places

That's your way of saying...

“Home-made is best every time”

I've never thought... my whole life...

...that I'd ever have my own home

Sleep on my own kang (heated brick bed)

When the autumn corn is harvested and sold...

...I'll buy you a big TV set for the New Year

And take you to the city... see a reputable doctor

In all my life...

...I've never been to the city

Neither have I

Then we'll go have a good look round the city

Here, I'll take it

You've moved in

Just recently...

...I've been busy with your elder nephew's wedding

So I had no time to help you move


Some leftovers from the wedding reception

No-one's touched it

We thought you must be working on your house

So you'd be too busy... come to the wedding reception

Come inside

Here is fine

There's something I need to discuss with you

The National Poverty Alleviation Policy says that every

impoverished household is eligible
for one council apartment

I've applied for one on your behalf

80 square metres

Just over 10,000 Yuan

I will pay for you

I'm just a farmer

What do I want with an apartment in town?

How could I maintain it?

If I moved there...

...where would I keep my donkey, pigs and hens?

I don't want it

Look, well...

Your second nephew said the application will begin

Now the price of buildings is very high

Don't miss this opportunity

They usually cost over 200,000 yuan

if we miss this chance... could I find the money... buy an apartment for him?

My hand...

Something bit me, it's come up in a lump

I've tied this toad here to neutralize it

Only four apartments for this whole village

How can it be my turn?

Don't worry

As long as you want it...'re one of the poorest in our village

You don't have kids

And you donate 'panda' blood for Zhang Yongfu

You're saving Zhang Yongfu

And that saves most people in our village

If you don't help Zhang Yongfu, he'll die

Where would they get their land rent and wages then?

How would the Village Committee
get the overdue water payment?

As long as you apply for the apartment... will dare to challenge you

He should deliver your stuff to you in his BMW!

To save you pulling your donkey cart

For carrying sacks of stuff... gold donkey cart beats his gold car

The car's not as good as his donkey!

That 'gold' donkey cart is the best!


We leased one and a half acres of your land

That's 725 Yuan, correct?

Yes, correct

You can take 7 bags of corn

I'm giving you 12.5 kilos extra

That can't be right

The market price for corn is 80 cents per 500 grams

You're making it 1 yuan per 500 grams?

Do you want it or not? If not, go home and wait...

...until I have the money to pay you

I owe you land rent for two acres

500 kilos

That's right

Take 500 kilos of corn


Deduct the money for the two coats

Just give me 420 kilos

As we agreed, that money was 'borrowed'

This is this, that is that

Alright then

Just load up 420 kilos



It looks as if you're planting footprints in the field

Maybe in a few days the autumn vegetables
won't grow...

...but we get a crop of footprints!

I hope not

Because you can't move if your feet 'grow' in the field

Either the wind will blow you down...

Or the donkey will nibble you...

Or you'll be pecked by sparrows, or cut by sickles

Being stuck in the field is to suffer

That's right

Feet let people walk around

They're better off than crops and vegetables
grown in the field

Things grown in the field can't go anywhere

Exposed to wind and sun...

Living, then dying...

Never leaving the field

That's right

Mind you, though...

Where can our feet take us?

We're also tied to our land

We can't go anywhere

Tell me, how can a peasant live without land?

This way...

This block is not bad

Yes, pretty well built

The balcony is nice and bright

Yes, it's okay

'Iron' Ma

You'll soon move into this spacious and tidy apartment

How do you feel?

People can live here

But where do my donkey...

The pigs...

...and the hens live?

I think the apartment is not bad

Kitchen's a bit small though

But they'll manage

Nice big living room

One, Two

Three, Four


This miserable hen

...went to lay eggs in Ma Chengwan's old house

No wonder there's one gone missing

It went to live and lay eggs there


I'll make it a nest...

...get it used to lay eggs in the new nest

it grew up in Ma Chengwan's old house


What's the matter with you?

Feeling dizzy

Your hands are hot

You are having a temperature

Get inside

Get up

You don't look well


Get inside and cover up with heavy duvets...'ll get better after a good sweating

Get up now

Get up and eat the poached egg while it's still hot

Then drink the Zisu herb soup

Come on...

Have it while it's hot

Taste the first egg...

...from the chickens you raised

I'm so unlucky

In the old days...

...when I lived in the backyard shed, I never got ill

Now I eat well, live well

But I get ill

You have some too

You get on and eat


Get your energy back, go on

You have a bit

You eat, go on

Go on, eat

From now on, they'll lay eggs every day

You go on and eat

I need to make them a coop

Or they might run back to the old house to lay eggs

You eat and get better soon

it might work with a log

Your wife was bringing two buns and an egg

She was looking for you

We asked her to wait, you'd be here soon

But when she stood up...

...she felt dizzy and fell into the water

Lao Wang was taking her

Run for her

Are you going to make sure Lao Wang
pulls your wife up?


Guiying! Guiying!


“Date of marriage registration: 2011.02.08”

In the studio on the second floor...

...we have more wedding clothes

Come and take a look

This is our latest collection of...'s suits for the season

This looks good too

Chinese style, Western style

This side is women's wear

Gowns for the wedding reception

Your marriage certificate photo...

...looks really blurred when we zoom in

Have you got a photo with better resolution?

Guiying, take this TV with you

You don't want to go

You were used by others for most of your life...

...haven't you had enough?

Miserable beast

You're selling the whole lot?


Not keeping any to eat?


Okay then

Come, let me tot it up for you

Okay, you have 912 kilos of wheat

Deduct moisture, that's roughly 850 kilos

Corn, 1998.5 kilos

Deduct moisture, roughly 1900 kilos, okay?

Agreeable to you?

Then it's 3974 yuan in total

Forget the 4 yuan, makes the book-keeping easier

Here, 3900 yuan, check it

And here's the 70 yuan

I'm doing this for you as a neighbor

You need cash, so I'm buying all your stock

If it was anyone else...

...I wouldn't give such a good price

Since the start of the spring,
you've had credit for fertilizer...

Pesticide, seeds... a total of 1510 yuan

Plus seeds for autumn vegetable, 60 yuan

Grand total of 1570 yuan

Check if that's correct

It's noted on my calendar, correct

It's turned cooler since the corn harvest

The cold season is coming

The ten eggs I borrowed from you last spring

Just ten eggs, no need

This is this, that is that

At the time, I said it was a loan

Come back

Sit down and have a chat, come on

Now you have your own house and food...'s nice and easy to live alone

Is the house fully cleared?


Then we'll start knocking it down

Go ahead

Come, sign the papers

Compensation for demolition, 15,000 yuan

Here you are

Fourth Brother follow you to live in the building

This is also the beginning of his new life