Abstract： Film narration and presentation of landscapes are closely interconnected. In general cases, landscapes are present in many films but their presence is marginal. Essentially, landscape in film is an atmosphere for a story, a setting for action, there, but always “in the background”. There is no film genre called “landscape film” as in painting. In contrast, this paper argues that landscape and topography has more than mere background significance in Zhang Yimou’s Riding Alone and that it functions as a “foreground” andan effective means of demonstrating national cultural characters. By combining western cinematic theories with traditional oriental landscape painting theories, the paper addresses seven different forms of the “foreground” role played by landscape: formal elements, emotional description, characterization, storytelling, multiple perspectives, ideology, and historical relevance.