Shi Tingyu, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
The television series A Cinematic Journey is adapted from Tonfang Po’s 1.5-million-word novel sequence A Cinematic Journey (published in three volumes in 1990). This novel sequence is based on the English autobiography of Cai A-Xin, Taiwan’s first woman doctor, revolving around three generations of the same family and the disturbances that arise in the course of expelling colonizers from Taiwan.
The story begins in 1895, with dramatic changes in East Asian history and the ceding of Taiwan to Japan, and leads up to 1949, when the Kuomintang government came to Taiwan. In the intervening time, the story follows the Japanese and the colonization process, moving through Keelung, Taipei, and Hsinchu. It also looks at the colony’s politics and its tug-of-war of identities. Settings include China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Canada, and the list of characters represents the wide diversity of colonial Taiwanese society: country gentry, intellectuals studying abroad, social activists, missionaries, the Japanese ruling class, and colonial collaborators.
Within the framework of colonial history, Tonfang Po attempts to insert a female perspective into a male-centered historical narrative. The main character, Qiu Yaxin, is born at the beginning of the Japanese colonial era and later goes to Japan to study. In the 1920s he sets up a medical practice to help the people of Taiwan. A Cinematic Journey centers on the life of Qiu Yaxin and blends in the narrative qualities of colonized femininity, dealing with colonizer and colonized identities in a historical perspective. Taiwan’s history as a colony is complicated and consists of several layers and a wide scope, which is what gives depth and breadth to A Cinematic Journey. When it was adapted as a television serial, all the above-mentioned elements were given a visual and spatial presence.
In 2005, the then Ching Pang Ko Film Production Company (now Green Film Production) produced a television version of A Cinematic Journey (with direction by Danny Teng and Chen Yixiong and screenplay by Wang Ciyang and Ke Shuqing) that was broadcast on Formosa TV. The process of translating the historical novel’s symbolism to the screen involved substantial difficulties. The fact that the book was being filmed at all shows how the visual media were influenced by the reflection and retrospection of the literary world in dealing with the complex and many-layered history of colonialism. In this way, television was exhibiting a new way of thinking, bravely reflecting on and carefully probing history. This also meant that a traditional television serial could be entrusted with the task of using a televisual medium to inform people about colonialism’s deep and fractured history, using images to attack the current nativist epistemology and historical education, making people rethink identities and the structuring of the colonial space.
The story concludes with another turning point in the history of Taiwanese identity and conflict: the Kuomintang’s arrival in Taiwan, the subsequent 228 Incident, and the purging and exiling of patriotic intellectuals. What remains of the “journey” of the Taiwanese? Is it still being made even today? Have they been swept away without a trace? These are the questions that A Cinematic Journey poses.
|Related Literary Themes：||Histories and Historical Fiction|