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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
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   And Also the Eclipse  


And Also the Eclipse

Reviewed by Adrian Sim

Chinese Title: Tai yang wu zhi
Director: Brian Chang Wai-Hung
Writing Credits: Brian Chang Wai-Hung
Cast: Chan Shan-Shan, Ivy Ho, Josie, Ho, Ho Wan-Ming, Jimmy Lam, Wilson Yip
Genre: Drama
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 90 min

Chang Wai-Hung’s And Also the Eclipse is a placid but sensitively directed tale (road movie of sorts) of a young actress, Flora, who decides to seek temporal solitude at Lantau Island while at the crossroad of her life, i.e., eschewing her controlling married lover.

The first two thirds of the film is essentially the emotional pull of the film. This part concentrates on Flora’s budding friendship with a young counterpart, Cent, who has been luckier in love…and a probable romance with Cent’s young male cousin. Some of the film’s best and touching moments occur during the exchange between the two ladies in their hostels and Flora with the cousin. They reveal everything about their thoughts and feelings to each other like they have been long lost friends. Flora’s question to Cent perfectly encapsulates this…"Are you a friend I knew a million years ago?".

And Also the Eclipse also works brilliantly as a meditative (in a good way) mood piece enhanced by the "sun." It is doused with some unpredictably spectacular surreal flourishes especially in the third act. Some of the imagery (e.g., Flora’s dreams, nightmares and hallucinations) actually brings to mind some of the works of Maya Deren, the famous mistress of surrealism. The parting shots of Flora’s doppelgangers at the beach remind me particularly of Maya’s alter egos in Meshes of The Afternoon.

I consider And Also the Eclipse a strong contender for the Best Film at the Silver Screen Awards for its perceptive depiction of the fragility of human relationships and the individual, not forgetting the fertile ground it offers for psychoanalysis. Alas…it was snubbed at the awards.

Nonetheless, And Also the Eclipse will remain etched in my mind for quite some time. Some found the inchoate montage of vivid imagery in the film to be off-putting but I saw it as the film’s strength, to uncompromisingly depict Flora’s dire mental state.

An interview with Chang Wai-Hung

After finishing his secondary education, Chang Wai-Hung didn’t go to the university as most of his counterparts did. He knew one thing. He loved films and soon began to write film reviews for youth weeklies.

"It allowed me to write and express myself freely and writing reviews allowed me to study films at the same time," Chang quipped.

Chang’s first job was a scriptwriter at Jackie Chan’s Golden Way Production Company. He was part of a group of scriptwriters who had developed ideas for feature films via "collective creative" brainstorming sessions.

When asked if it was difficult to venture into filmmaking in Hongkong, Chang replied that a lot of opportunities depend on "friendship." He further cautioned that those idealistic ones would find the Hong Kong filmmaking industry "disappointing."

And Also the Eclipse is the last installment in Chang’s trilogy based on the cosmic entities, moon, star and sun.

"I wanted to create something new and different in the third film," said Chang. "I wanted the eclipse to be a special moment, a mental thing, for the protagonist."

According to Chang, Eclipse is about the "mental problems of a woman who thinks she is all right because she hides everything within her." The eponymous eclipse is a metaphor for the precarious mental state of the woman, Flora.

"In the west, the eclipse of the sun or the moon was often used to describe a mental disorder," Chang explained.

According to Chang, the sun has also been linked to "anger" and in the film, it symbolizes Flora’s simmering rage. He adds that the sun has also been thought to be the phoenix ("fire bird"). Lantau Peak or Phoenix Mountain, was purposefully featured in the film as a motif and to "give an idea of the rebirth" undertaken by Flora during the journey.

The film also contained a few surreal sequences consisting of disparate scenes, which according to Chang, was to show Flora’s ensuing schizophrenic state of mind.

Eclipse is as much the emotional odyssey of one troubled woman as it is Chang’s. The temporal and spatial discontiguousness of the dream sequences were intentionally drawn out by Chang as they were very personal to him.

"I have always lost sense of time in my dreams and I wanted to portray this feeling in the sequences," said Chang.

Chang also said the film was a space for the inclusion of "many different art forms."

"There was a space specially allotted for a commercial, a hip-hop dance, an MTV, a painting, poetry and music," Chang said excitedly. "In fact, I left the music segment without any visuals. All you could see in that segment was white."

Chang said motifs like the prolonged "white" segment, the translucent overlapping split screens in the MTV, mountains and mists to evoke a "sense of transparency." He was particularly intrigued by a line in the poem "Sunstone" by Otavio Paz that he roughly reads as "it is your transparency to make me see the world."

"Wouldn’t it be a wonderful feeling to experience the world in all of that invisibility and transparency?" Chang said.

When asked about the ambiguous characters and open-endedness of the film, Chang said he does not have any right to draw conclusions on his characters’ lives. He thinks his film should be open to interpretations.

So, is Flora headed for suicide in the end as some have suggested? Chang prefers the audience not to think so.

"Flora didn’t want to stay in one place. She wants to travel," Chang explained. "She left the city not because she was sad but she had strength."

Therefore, Chang added the film was not meant to be "sad" but his "story of hope."