Chen Boqing, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Partners in Crime (2014), directed by Zhang Rongji (Chang Jung-chi), was adapted from Xia Pei’er’s story of the same name. The film begins with the discovery a teenage girl’s corpse – Xia Weiqiao (Yao Aining) – by three of her male schoolmates. LonerHuang Lizhun (Wu Jianhe), honor student Lin Yongqun (Deng Yukai), and class bad boy Yeh Yikai (Zheng Kaiyuan) form an unlikely friendship as a result of the incident. When the girl’s death is ruled a suicide, the three youths are unconvinced andbegin their own investigation.Led by Huang Lizhun, the young sleuths growcloser as they seek to identify and punish the cyber-bullying schoolmate responsible for the girl’s death.According to Huang’s deductions, all clues point to Zhu Jingyi (Wen Zhenling), and the boys determine to punish the girl. In the process, however, Huang Lizhun accidentally drowns, and only then do Lin and Yeh realize thatHuang lied to them – it wasn’t Zhu Jingyi who bullied Xia Weiqiao. The realization leads to an unexpected and mysterious conclusion: As it turns out, loneliness led Huang Lizhun to turn the tragic incident into game of detection – a way to make friends – providing false evidence to back his claims.Touching on issues of school bullying and Internet ethics, the film is a unique portrayal of adolescent loneliness and the need for friendship. Partners in Crime was chosen to open the Taipei Film Festival, and has been shown at the Hong Kong Summer International Film Festival and a number of other international film festivals.
Water is a predominant image in the film – lake water, heavy rain, sweat-soaked skin, blood running on the ground. Water symbolizes youth’s fluidity: impermanent, malleable, and transparent, yet easily dyed – the young detectives seek to permeate and merge with their quarry. And who is the perpetrator? Or, who has turned them into perpetrators. The film explores teenagers’ yearning for peer kinship and approval. For example, Huang Lizhun’s anger at campus toughs who pick on him and the phenomenon of collective cyber-bullying both highlight adolescent loneliness. Everyone fears isolation and seeks peer approval, thus friendships are born.Nevertheless, if friends can be defined as those who share common goals, isn’t “partners in crime” a synonym for friends? The film’s horror and cruelty all derive from the thirst for human interaction. Consequently, the question the director poses it this: How far is a person willing to go in order to be accepted?
Every person is an isolated individual, and death is a black box that once shut will never reopen. Partners in Crime reverses this recognition. The film begins with a death, butby the end viewers realize that the Xia Weiqiao’s suicide is the means by which Huang Lizhun breaks through his loneliness and isolation, forming bonds with others. New relationships seem to open up for him, but he resorts to lies and duplicity in order to reinforce friendships closed off to both outsiders and the truth. Thisentails a paradox: “Death is lonely, but isn’t life even lonelier?” And if that’s the case, why live? This echoes the film’smany references to Camus’ L'Étranger (“The Stranger”) – in the midst of life’s absurdity and disorder, young people are confronted withquestions of life, death, and the meaning of existence.
|Related Literary Themes：||Young Adult|