Lin Wanxuan, Associate Professor, Department of Applied English, Yuanpei University of Medical Technology
Led by crippled Japanese scientist Hashimoto (Yosuke Eguchi), a team of anti-gravity researchers – ambitious Chinese scientist (Xu Xiyuan), and two Taiwanese research assistants, Chen Shouren (Chen Bolin) and Dong Hemei (Zhang Junning) – invent a Menger Sponge that’s capable of capturing certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves. Although the Menger Sponge’s ultimate aim is to control anti-gravitational movement, the team discovers that ghosts are visible if the eyes are sprayed with liquid from the Menger Sponge. The device allows the researchers to capture a young male ghost, a world first. A laboratory is set up in the rundown old apartment where the ghost is dwelling, the team observing the phantom’s every movement from behind a glass partition. Sounds a little bit like the American comedy hit Ghostbusters (1984), doesn’t it?
But the scientists in director Su Chaobin’s Silk (2006) aren’t out for laughs, and the ghost isn’t a charmingly eccentric mascot. Amidst gloomy, depressing settings the researchers attempt to understand the reasons why spirits of the dead linger on in the world of the living. But bureaucracy-hating scientist Hashimoto has an even darker aim: the Menger Sponge has proven that ghosts are a kind of electromagnetic energy – on dying, people are immediately transformed into that energy, but most dissipate an instant later. Why is it, then, that some don’t vanish but instead turn into ghosts?
Hashimoto’s hopes that learning the boy’s identity and cause of death will unlock the secret of how he became a ghost. To understand what the boy is saying – researchers can see his lips moving but can’t hear him – and where he wants to go, Hashimoto recruits Ye Qidong (Zhang Zhen), noted for his sharp vision and lip-reading skills. Ye discovers that the boy’s name is Chen Yaoxi (Chen Guanbo) and that a strange silk thread is attached to his foot, the opposite end of which is linked to his mother, Zheng Chun (Wan Fang), who lies in a coma. Following the clues, Ye Qidong discovers that the child – who suffered from a disfiguring facial condition – was killed by his own mother because she couldn’t endure the ridicule her son was subjected to. Later, Hashimoto’s team finds out that in addition to the strength of the radiation field at the place where a corpse is found, the deceased’s obsessive thoughts at the time of death also contribute to the formation of a ghostly existence. The silk thread, the channel through which mother and son communicate, is the product of mental obsessions and fetters; moreover, after Zheng Chun dies, the thread will lead her to her son, now a malicious spirit. Yeh Qidong and his mother stand in contrast to Chen Yaoxi and his mother. After Yeh’s mother dies in a hospital, her spirit returns home to cook an egg for her son, the scene implying that ghosts take shape as a result of troubling obsessions and dissipate again after resolving them.
Mahayana Buddhism uses the term “intermediate existence” to describe the post-death state of a soul that remains in the realm of the living because it has not yet settled all of its emotional affairs. Silk places the Menger Sponge’s promised anti-gravitational sci-fi imaginings and “intermediate existence” – the crossing over from life to death – side by side. In addition to conveying the message that both humans and ghosts can be healed of their emotional wounds, the film also emphasizes the importance of “letting go.” A ghost can’t access the weightless path to freedom represented by anti-gravity, because ghostly obsessions are both gentle yokes and heavy fetters; thus, only by loving compassionately and choosing to let go of hatred and guilt can a soul achieve freedom and tranquility.
|Related Literary Themes：||Science Fiction and Mystery|