Zheng Binghong, Film Critic
The Wall-passer (2007) is famed poet, curator, critic, writer, and director Hong Hong’s fourth feature film. The picture is based on an eponymous short story by French writer Marcel Aymé, who excelled at using the absurd and grotesque to satirize contemporary society. At the same time, however, the film also incorporates Hong Hong’s own youthful experiences.
The story is about two worlds, two girls, an enchanted boy, and how to make choices. The action takes place in the not-too-distant future. Because the city in which seventeen year-old Xiao Tie (Zhang Yongzheng) lived was destroyed in an earthquake, his parents moved to the new capital, “Reality City.” While on a school field trip to a nuclear power plant, Xiao Tie picks up a radioactive stone that allows him to pass through solid objects. At a museum in the vicinity he makes the acquaintance of hearing-impaired attendant Nuo-nuo (Li Jiaying), who relies on an “electric ear” to communicate with others. Xiao Tie and Nuo-nuo begin dating, but Nuo-nuo suddenly vanishes not long after an old boyfriend appears on the scene. Xiao Tie uses his magic stone to search for Nuo-nuo, coming to a strange “other place,” where every object that has ever disappeared will appear again. There he meets Yahong (Lu Jiaxin), a blind girl who early on was abandoned by her father, and the two fall in love. Xiao Tie even decides to let Yahong use the stone, which nullifies its magical properties. Back in the real world twenty years later, while taking part in a company excursion the now middle-aged Xiao Tie spots a deaf girl who resembles Nuo-nuo. He urgently uses sign language to communicate with her, but she only smiles politely and unfamiliarly in return.
Poet Hong Hong’s films have always exhibited strong individual characteristics, blending jumping narrative and intertextuality in a style all his own. The Wall-passer is a rare Taiwanese fantasy film; working with a limited budget, Hong’s Hong employs his enormous powers of imagination to transcend time and space, redefining love and memory, “reformatting” the Taiwan’s historical and cultural imagination.
Taipei’s Neihu District Industrial Park represents the near future in the film, and Kaohsiung’s Red-hair Harbor Village – now torn down – symbolizes both the past and “another place”; the rugged terrain of Moon World is also “another place”; as for Salt Mountain in Tainan’s Qigu district, it has turned into “the ends of the earth,” and at the same time “the near future plus twenty years.” Hong Hong first sets up a variety of binary oppositions – black-and-white versus color, visual impairment versus hearing impairment, the past versus the present – then seamlessly investigates, interrogates, and topples these oppositions. As a result, the film’s temporal order is loosened, and the line between the real and unreal is indistinct; thus all signs and metaphors are even more ambiguous and multifarious.
A long poem, The Wall-passer is also a political fable. Moreover, it’s an honest-to-goodness fairy tale of love and growth. Xiao Tie is Hong Hong himself; Xiao Tie is everyone – we’re forever in pursuit of our fragile and beautiful youth, which once gone never returns.
|Related Literary Themes：||Science Fiction and Mystery|