Sun Xinping, Poet
One Day (2010, director Hou Jiran’s first feature-length drama, constructs a fate/time-space Möbius strip on the theme of pure love. A ship slowly sailing from Kaohsiung to Jinmen (Quemoy) serves as the film’s vehicle, reality giving way to fantasy as the “boat” turns into a “dream” sailing in the night. On board, female protagonist Xinying (Xie Xinying), a young woman from Kaohsiung’s Qijin district, and male protagonist A-Cong (Zhang Shuhao), a Taipei youth, experience a coincidental fantasy encounter.
The film’s narrative is nonlinear. On a stormy typhoon night, just before she slips into dreamland, a broadcast announcement informs Xinying that pop-music icon Michael Jackson has died (2009). A-Cong, who is performing compulsory military service, is shipping out to an outlying island, where he is to be stationed. Before boarding the vessel, a fellow soldier mentions his girlfriend has told him that the day marks the one-year anniversary of Jackson’s death (2010), revealing a year’s difference in the two main characters’ time frames. A-Cong, who has come from the future, tearfully begs Xinying not try to see him in Taipei, lest the acquaintance end in tragedy. But Xinying is determined to pursue a predestined love. In the end she discovers that the indistinct figure appearing in her dreams is none other than A-Cong.
A positive fatalism lies hidden within the film, Hou Jiran’s strong narrative interlinking disparate plot elements. “Sailing” is an important poetic image – from island to island, from one person to another, love runs its irreversible course.
Hou Jiran, whose coldly poetic Stardust 15749001 won the Taipei Film Festival: Grand Prize, has a unique grasp of details. The horses and beautiful South Asian women that appear in the “same dream” – which takes place in two different years – are a reflection of A-Cong’s feelings and his plan to “change the past”; but when Xinying dreams she is walking into a “study hall” adjacent to the ship’s hold, does she even faintly perceive how to tell herself apart from the multitude of faceless students asleep at their desks?
Being loved is perhaps is one kind of possibility. The beloved is unique in the lover’s eyes.
When all is said and done, should life make the ordinary old or live once with verve?
A conversation between Xinying and her mother comes up twice in the film. Xinying asks: “If you’d known Dad would die at sea, would you’ve still married him?” “Yes,” her mother replies, “because…when we were together we were very happy. We shouldn’t give up present happiness for the future, should we?” But on the Möbius strip of fate “the future” leads to “the past,” which in turn leads to the unavoidable present – namely, choice.
And so it is at the end the film: Xinying, sits vacantly in the study hall, popping bubble-wrap to catch A-Cong’s attention. “Pop!” The thin membrane that separates the two of them is punctured and fate begins to play out. Pop! Xinying choose to move toward love, even if it involves death.
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