Chai Ao, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
A-die is a Hong Kong middle-school teacher and family woman. At the beginning of Butterfly she is in the classroom, somewhat distractedly teaching a lesson. The scene then cuts to footage shot in Super 8 mm. film – grainy, with highly contrasting colors – showing a pair of female students behaving very intimately. The audience senses that this is what is distracting A-die – she is constantly troubled by a past romantic disappointment. After school, A-die is in a supermarket, lending a hand to help a strange yet confident teenage girl, A-ye. Later, A-die cannot help but confide in the girl, telling her that she once had a dear friend who became a Buddhist nun, at which point the audience realizes that the “dear friend” was A-die’s schooldays lover, Zhenzhen. In the next scene a mother and daughter are at seaside, the start of another narrative – after having discovering her husband was having an affair, A-die’s mother has taken her to the ocean, where the mother intends for them both to drown. Subsequently, parental intervention nips A-die’s youthful romance in the bud.
In the first ten minutes the director introduces the film’s three central figures, juxtaposing the repressive past with the promise of the present. A-die’s mother’s plan to drown herself and her daughter is a symbol of the heterosexual family structure that drags A-die to the ocean and destroys her lesbian romance. A-die, however, is married to a caring husband, hinting that her plight is not caused by a single individual but by the societal pressures that have forced her into a heterosexual family arrangement.
Director Yan Yan Mak’s Butterfly (2004) was adapted from Taiwanese author Chen Xue’s short story, “Mark of the Butterfly.” The film’s plot and characters and are true to Chen’s story but the setting has been moved to Hong Kong, incorporating elements of life in that city, most obviously references to the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Chen’s story is less about politics and more about the fate of a lesbian forced into a heterosexual marriage. Mak’s film interjects references to Tiananmen, placing A-die’s love life on the stage of political revolution (even so, the romantic theme remains dominant). Although a mixture of love and politics has been a staple of fiction and film in Taiwan since the founding of the Republic of China, Butterfly injects new life and meaning into the tried-and-true formula. Moreover, Yan Yan Mak’s Hong Kong is unlike the drab, crowded city of earlier film depictions – A-die and A-ye’s love unfolds in a bath of warm colors, imbuing the film with a joyous radiance that betokens a beautiful ending.
Movie Butterfly trailer (Source: Filmko Entertainment Limited)
|Related Literary Themes：||LGBT Literature|