Chen Boqing, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Terrorizers premiered in 1986. The film was directed by Yang Dechang, and starred Miao Qianren, Li Liqun, Jin Shijie, and Gu Baoming. The story begins with an early morning chase, police pursuing a suspect. Photographer Xiao Qiang has inadvertently snapped a photo of Shu’an, a female juvenile delinquent, whose prank phone calls have made waves in the marriage of the characters played by Li Liqun and Miao Qianren. The many disparate narrative threads are in fact interconnected and interdependent. As characters’ relationships grow increasingly strained, the film not only portrays a group of contemporary urbanites, but also highlights modern humans’ alienation and interpersonal anxieties. Terrorizers won “Best Screenplay” at the Asia Pacific Film Festival, and was named “Best Film” at the 23rd Annual Golden Horse Film Festival.
The film portrays urban life as confinement, most apparent in its treatment of space. For example, the window at the back of Xiao Qiang’s rented room is sealed off, as though the young photographer prefers to live in the dark. Other characters are confined as well. Li Lizhong, a physician, works day after day at a monotonous nine-to-five job, while his wife, Zhou Yufen, a novelist, feels stifled by the marriage, the two unable to communicate with each other. The relationship has turned the couple into solitary rooms, and neither of them can enter into the other’s life. Yufen says, “When we first married, I felt it was a new start. I wanted children, and I felt that too would be a new start. I’ve begun writing fiction again and I hope it will be a new beginning. I’ve decided to leave you, and that will also be a new start.” Thus, viewers understand that the characters do want to change but their attempts are futile – in trying to alter their lives, they merely go from confinement to confinement. This is true not only of interpersonal relationships, for time too has become a confined space, a prison for the middle-class individuals the film portrays. People’s alienation from and inability to communicate with others is modernism’s most important issue.
Who does the film’s title refer to? Who are the “terrorizers?” Near the end Li Lizhong holds a gun, ready to either commit murder or suicide; thus he is doubtlessly a “terrorizer.” But aren’t all the film’s characters terrorizers as well? Shu’an’s prank call ultimately results in Yufen’s decision to leave her husband. The young woman’s action didn’t cause immediate harm to others; however, terror here is manifested as destruction of order – Shu’an has smashed one of the above-mentioned confined spaces. Other characters – a wife having an affair, and Xiao Qiang, who tips the police off by phone – to a greater or lesser degrees attempt to restore order. The terrorizing isn’t intentional, and is not necessarily malicious, but it brings about radical change, just like the gunshots at the film’s end. Order seems unshakeable, the city firm and stable, and modern life perfect in all regards. But, like in the giant flashing oil tank in film, there exists a hidden possibility that it could all blow up at any time.
|Related Literary Themes：||Modernist Literature|