Chen Boqing, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Director ZhengYoujie’s Yang Yang (2009) centers on Zhang Xinyang (Zhang Rongrong), nicknamed “Yang Yang,” a young woman of mixed French-Chinese parentage who has never known her French father.At the beginning of the film Yang Yang’s mother (Yu Taiyan) marries Yang Yang’s track-and-field coach, and Yang Yang and the coach’s daughter, Xiao Ru (He Enhui), go from being teammates to sisters, turning Yang Yang’s adolescence into an endlessseries of competitions. The film portrays a teenage girl’s anxiety and restlessness, and the exploration and irresolution inherent inthe growth process. Yang Yang won the “Special Jury Prize,” and the “Best Leading Actress,” and “Best Soundtrack” awards at the 11th Annual Taipei Film Festival.
Yang Yang is a student at Taiwan’s Central Academy of Sports. Early in the film a race sets the tone for Yang Yang’s relationship with Xiao Ru – on the track the girls try to outrun each other and off the track they vie for ayoung man’s affections. On the surface, the two get along well as teammates and sisters; covertly, each does all she can to undermine the other – feigning weakness to get the coach’s attention, digging up secrets, spreading rumors. Thus, the girls’ interactions are a comedic miniature of adolescent scheming and infighting. And because they live as sisters under the same roof, contending with each other for friendship, parental affection, and romantic partners, conflict is avoidable.Adolescents are concerned with their looks, romantic love, and their image in others’ eyes; some of these factors can be changed while others are immutable. But teens often want to alterthe inalterable, and make the impermanent permanent, giving rise to disappointment, transcendence, or awakening, all manifestations of “growth.”
The questions “Who am I?” and “Who are you?” are asked throughout the film. Sometime what’s being interrogated is relationship. For example, when Xiao Ru is physically intimate with her boyfriend she asks, “Who am I?” Or when Yang Yang has a secret fling with Xiao Ru’s boyfriend she says, “Don't take me for Zhang Xinyang.” Other times Yang Yang questions her background: “My father is French, but I don’t speak French.” From nationality to family relations, from a sense of belonging to a sense of self, the big question in the growth process is “What am I?”Yang Yang has never known her real father, and she’s considered a foreigner in her own country; she steals her stepsister’s boyfriend, and her friends are like relatives to her. As a result of these displaced relationships she doesn’t really know who she is, so she chooses to leave home. But she departs in order to return: “Where do I want to go?” becomes “Where do I want to go back to?” And the process of escaping from self is in fact posing the question “Who am I really?”
The ending is a movie within a movie. Now a film actress, Yang Yang rehearses“my feelings after finding my real father,” thereby liberating herself. Of course, this isn’t just a rehearsal. Yang Yang doesn’t really provide perfect answers to the bewildering questions that arise in the maturation process – questions to which there are no standard answers. In the last scene Yang Yang once again dons her tracksuit and runs. Indeed, one must find one’s own answers: This is the only certain andindisputable element in thegrowth narrative.
|Related Literary Themes：||Young Adult|