Ma Yihang, PhD Candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Spider Lilies (2007) is Taiwanese director Zero Chou’s second feature-length film. The movie’s Chinese title translates as “Tattoo,” and a tattoo is the film’s most important metaphor, a point of departure for an examination of desires and morals, identity and performance, memory and narrative.
Takeko’s arm is tattooed with golden spider lilies, the flowers representing her desires, memory, and emotional wounds. While deeply involved with her first lesbian lover, her father is buried alive in rubble during a massive earthquake, causing her grief-stricken younger brother to lose his memory. Feeling her lesbianism to be the cause of the family tragedy, Takeko has her arm tattooed with spider lilies, the design a replica of one that adorned her father’s arm. From that time on she suppresses her same-sex yearnings, eventually becoming a tattoo artist. Teenage Jade operates a cybersex website from her bedroom, making money by stripping on camera. When she happens into Takeko’s tattoo parlor one day, she’s drawn to a spider-lily print that hangs on the shop wall. The picture trigger’s Jade’s memory and she suddenly recalls she had a crush on Takeko as a child. She then asks Takeko to tattoo her with spider lilies in memory of that childhood love. As the two grow closer Jade solves the riddle of her girlhood infatuation and Takeko eventually releases the desires she’s kept pent up for so long.
Zero Chou has a knack for uncovering the complicated longings and emotions that exist within two opposing concepts; thus, Spider Lilies not only explores repressed desires, but also uses the concept of “tattooing” to interpret the dramatic qualities of the body, personal identity, emotions, and memory, as well as the relationship of truth and falsehood. Is a tattoo something apart from an individual or is it part of her body? Does a tattoo imbue its wearer with power or is it simply an illusory decoration? For “web-cam girl” Jade, the body itself is a performance, and for her the spider-lily tattoo is an expression of memory and desire. But for Takeko, the tattoo is a something to hide behind, both a remembrance of her father and a lid to keep her lesbian longings bottled up. Under Chou’s direction Spider Lilies, rich in metaphors, is more than just a commercial film for young lesbians; by showing the same tattoo on two different bodies, the film manifests different patterns and ideas. A tattoo is a kind of emotional ritual, a metaphor for questioning what is real and what is not, embodying the paradoxical and uneasy relationship between emotional needs, ethical relations, and memory and trauma.
|Related Literary Themes：||LGBT Literature|