Friday, March 30, 2007

[HKIFF] Spider Lilies (刺青)

You Know You Want Me

A spider lily is a flower that is said to line along the pathway to Hell. It contains poison which will cause one to lose our memory. Memories are central to the story, as the characters involved are questioned as to whether their memories are faulty, and if one can choose to repress them in the attempt to forget, be they happier times, or times of woe.

Jade (Rainie Yang) is an Internet web-cam girl, living with her grandma, and making a living out of smut, enticing men to trade money for moments of online peek-a-boo pleasure. She has a love since 9 years of age, and it is the relationship with Takeko (Isabella Leong), a tattooist, that forms the fulcrum of the story. Takeko herself bears a strong spider lily tattoo on her left arm, and it is something that Jade wants for herself, trying to rekindle and capture memories of her lost love, now found again.

There had been a recent fad about tattoos, nevermind the negative connotations once associated with this permanent body art. Perhaps this movie will change opinions about tattoos, as it opens your mind to specifics as to the reason behind each design, and the rationale that each person probably had when making their choices on a particular design. And as a plot device, it was a hand in glove, a tattoo's powerful symbolism of hiding real intentions or emotions behind, or to feed off its perceived energy and possessing the design's qualities.

Spider Lilies has fine editing which serves the movie extremely well in engaging the audience with the characters' past. In fact, the rich back stories created for the characters make the story very compelling to watch. If there is a chink in the armour, then it's the characterization of Takeko's brother Ching (Shen Jian-hung), who is a bit slow in mental intelligence, and spends a lot of screen time pouting for his sister's attention, which totally messes up her social life, out of love and obligation to provide the only family care for him.

The fear and pain of being forgotten in a modern society might resonate with many, and anyone who has spent enough time on the internet, will know that its anonymity can often lead to misunderstandings. That subplot perhaps added a touch of lightness coupled with a tinge of sadness and irony. As most youths today turn to the net as an outlet for expression, most will be able to identify with this portion of the story arc.

I'm quite unsure if this movie will be able to make it to Singapore, given its more obvious subject material that the authorities will probably frown upon. But at its core, it's a tale of change and to have courage to live the life you want to lead, interwoven with a tale of love. If Saving Face can make it to our shores, I hope Spider Lilies will too.


Director Zero Chou, Isabella Leong and Shen Jian-hung were present at the end of the screening to field questions from the audience. Given the time limitation, we only had time for a few Q&As, mostly for the director.

There was a sense that true love is heavy and sad, to which Zero Chou explained that there is love that exists which is deep, and it is in the depths of love that sometimes you experience extreme sadness. However, there are also feelings of happiness. In love, both happiness and sadness coexist, and life is about change and bitterness and sadness are part and parcel of change. In this film, the power of love and courage are explored.

In the movie, there was the earthquake which served as a historical backdrop, and the characters from a fairly lost generation, and the question was how the director managed to blend the stories together for Spider Lilies. Zero Chou explained that Taiwan experiences earthquakes on a rather frequent basis, and in this movie, it is not the main subject. Rather, it's a symbol of abrupt change in emotions and memories, and that tattooing is like a way of stitching things back together again. And this recovery also includes the virtual world that the character Jade lives in. Or the brother Ching's lost memories, which is his way of dealing with abrupt change. This film is about how people deal with these changes, through love and courage.

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