The separation between exegetic and diegetic sound is often paired with the difference between reality and imagination. The selected shot from Lifetimes by Zhang Yimou begins with a very melodic exegetic song. This music continues through the next two shots. The rest of the chosen clip is engulfed in diegetic sounds of either the puppeteering or the marching citizens. By using exegetic music at the opening, Zhang is able to isolate the three shots. In turn, these can be examined in the context of the movie itself, and also as a product of Zhang's direction. The components of these individual stationary shots demonstrate Zhang's expertise, and also some of his personal sentiments as auteur.
The main character has just left home in pursuit of redeeming himself. He has been given a chest that is his only chance to save face and earn a living for his young family. He had a life most people only dreamed of, but squandered it all away for a few rounds of gambling. Building up to this moment, the main character has been faced with almost nothing but bad luck. Let alone the loss of his family's mansion, his father dies, and his wife leaves him with his daughter, while she's pregnant. But just before this scene begins, she returns. This could mark a turn in his luck, but inevitably will not. The first shot of the sequence serves many purposes. First, the shot is of the main character singing, yet is composed of only exegetic sound. This music is very uplifting and energetic. When all the scenes prior to this one had been harshly real, this music creates an escape for the audience. The music itself relieves the strain of the movie, and allows for the sequence to be left open to interpretation by the audience. What could be a very realistic progression of his travels, could also be an image conjured up in his lonesome mind. This is the second function of the first shot. The shot is a close-up of the main character with a torch in the foreground illuminating his face.