Lin Fangmei, Professor and Department Chairperson, Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages, and Literature, National Taiwan University
The film Bride in Hell (1965) is an adaption of The Mistress from Melynn, a 1960 novel by Victoria Holt. The book is a typical Gothic romance, set in an old family castle, the secretive atmosphere both suspenseful and terrifying. Director Xin Qi’s Bride in Hell uses some of the same Gothic elements of suspense, riddle-solving, and romantic entanglement, but adds twists of its own as well. For example: the film heightens the novel’s haze of ghostly suspicion; the female protagonist, sister to the male protagonist’s deceased wife, rebuffs a supporting character’s amorous overtures; the dead wife’s extramarital affair is written out of the script; and at the end of the film a supporting female character’s is publicly called out for her murderous behavior. The resulting adaptation is a new, Taiwan-style Gothic narrative.
The story begins when a yacht is lost at sea. Then a telephone call between male protagonist Wang Yiming (Ke Junxiong) and his cousin Gao Fengjiao (Liu Qing) reveals that Wang’s wife has perished while eloping with a neighbor. After female protagonist Bai Ruimei (Jin Mei) learns that her older sister Ruiyun – Wang’s wife – has died, Ruimei changes her identity and applies for a job as a tutor to Wang’s daughter Shuyuan in a bid to solve the mysteries surrounding her sister’s death.
Since his wife left him Wang Yiming has spent all his time with his friends, paying little heed to his daughter upbringing, leading to arguments with tutor Ruimei. Neighboring brother and sister Gao Yukun (Ou Wei) and Gao Fengjiao often meddle in Wang family affairs, and Yukun even falls in love with in Ruimei, but she’s only interested in proving her sister’s innocence. While investigating her sibling’s disappearance, Ruimei helps to repair the relationship between Wang and his daughter. Consequently, Mingyi is moved to change his irresponsible behavior, and happy laughter is heard once again in the Wang household.
When Ruimei learns from the housekeeper’s granddaughter A-Lan that Ruiyun isn’t dead, Ruimei begins to look into the reasons for her sister’s disappearance. She discovers a diary in the pocket of her missing sibling’s golfing outfit, and begins to follow clues in search of an answer. Finally, Ruiyun visits Ruimei in a dream, pouring out her grievances.
At a dance party Wang Yiming expresses his love for Ruimei; what’s more, Wang’s daughter Shuyuan has asked Ruimei to be her mother, so Yiming and Ruimei decide to get married. But on the eve of the wedding Fengjiao locks Ruimei in a sealed-off room where Ruimei discovers her sister’s corpse, the truth finally revealed – her sister was murdered by Fengjiao, not killed in a boating accident while running off with a lover.
That evening, everyone searches frantically for the missing Ruimei. Luckily, the housekeeper’s granddaughter A-Lan has spotted Gao Fengjiao slipping into the house’s Buddha hall. A-Lan’s report leads the searchers to the sealed-off room and Ruimei is rescued. The next day Fengjiao’s dastardly plan is revealed at the wedding ceremony and police take her away in handcuffs. In a happy ending, lovers Yiming and Ruimei get married and embark on their honeymoon.
On the whole it appears that the historical elements characteristic of Western Gothic romance fiction (the reopening of old wounds) are absent from the Taiwanese film, and the former’s overstepping of ethical and moral boundaries has been transformed into an affirmation of family relationships. As for categories, the Taiwanese version plays down romance fiction’s most important element – love between the male and female protagonist – turning Bride in Hell into what more closely resembles a family ethical drama.
|Related Literary Themes：||Science Fiction and Mystery|