I am glad that I manage to catch this movie on the big screen even though it was not during the special preview. Thanks to Clover Films for sending me two complimentary tickets which I watch together with my wife. Usually in my movie review, I would review and rate it at the end of my blog. This time, it will be quite different as I cannot wait to give my review and rating. It was the best movie that I have watch so far in 2015.
My rating was exceptionally high at 4.5 / 5. The reason for such high rating was the art direction, the emotion that you are able to relate to your own life while watch this movie and the engaging story telling process provided by the famous 61 years old director, Sylvia Chang. The Murmur of the Hearts was the opening movie of this year Hong Kong International Film Festival.
I did not fully read the synopsis of this movie before I sat on the comfy seat waiting for the movie to start. Someone told me that this was going to be a slow movie which I do agree especially at the beginning. To fully enjoy this movie, you will need to concentrate. I did that and I fully appreciate the movie with open hands.
It was about three young people and how they deal with their early childhood memories. Two of them were siblings, brother, Nan and sister, Mei while the third person, Hsieng was the boyfriend of the Mei. The brother worked as a travel guide, the sister, an artist while his boyfriend, a boxer.
Mother Story Telling - Mermaid and Angels
The mother of the siblings used to tell stories of mermaid and angels to the brother and sister. As in one of the scene where the brother visited his mother in his dream, the mother relates to him that the stories told to her children were created on the spot and continue endlessly. I was able to relate to my own experience as I did that to my two children when they were young.
The parents of the siblings were separated due to differences in views. The daughter , Mei followed the mother to Taipei while the son, Nan continued his life at the Green island with his father. Early childhood memories tend to be long term memories. They resided in our mind throughout our whole life. If these memories are unpleasant ones, they will continue to affect them emotionally throughout their lives. Both the siblings have troubling emotion and they suffer due to no closure to their early childhood incident.
There was not much information about the father except for one scene when he received the news about his ex-wife passed away due to childbirth, he started to burn his ex-wife and daughter belongings. I believe he felt there was no more hope of them returning back to him. It was at this moment, he told his filial son, Nan to stop helping him with the cooking and advised him to study hard for his future. Somehow he understood what his ex-wife wanted for their children, which is to leave this rural island so that the children will enjoy a better future.
The opening scene allows us to have a glimpse of the old houses in Taipei with a contrasting background of modern mighty Taipei 101 building. It was an artful scene where Mei faces the vast build-up area of Taipei. There were also a number of scenes showing the mother, Lee Sinjie李心洁 swimming and dancing underwater. There were also scenes of mermaid appearing with her tail . Somehow the movie tried to connect the mother with the mermaid. Has the mother turned into a mermaid?
Due to non-closure of the siblings childhood family incidents, their fear and psychological state of mind naturally prolong into their adult life. Dreams became a form of closure for the three young people. The boxer, Hsiang hope of becoming an Olympic boxer was prematurely interrupted by his eye injury. His father appeared in his dream when they were at the pier fishing. This allows Hsiang to have his last conversation with his father which bring closure for him. As audience, we thought that the boxer and his father reunited but it was only a dream. In the case of the artist, Mei, her fear of childbirth was affected by the scene of her mother having her childbirth. Her mother died during the childbirth. As mentioned earlier, Nan met his mother as a stranger. He was well treated and his mother shared some of her thoughts with him. As for myself, my mother passed away in 1998. For almost 2 years after her passing, it was a difficult time for me. The closure came in a form of a dream. I dreamt that she went for a long overseas holiday in a faraway place. It was only then; I felt at ease of her passing.
This is the most powerful element in the movie. There were two incidents of connections between the siblings. A middle age bartender met both of the siblings at different locations. At the subway, Mei's sketch flew onto the rail but was mysteriously pick-up by the bartender. In another scene, the same bartender met his brother, Nan, at his bar. Was it a coincidence that both the brother and sister met the same bartender? I would certainly think that the bartender is the initial connection between siblings.
The second connection came when the Nan unknowingly met his niece who dropped her story book. He helped to pick the book up for his niece. The story book served as a powerful connection. As he read the book, he found the story in the book to be very similar to the story told by his mother. Upon closer examination, he realised that it was written by his sister, Mei. Finally, he reunited with his sister. My eyes were filled with tears.
The third connection was some sort of closure for Mei when she met the ex-lover of her mother.
The movie centred on childhood memories, regrets, family ties, love and hope and the love of a mother. The well-known director, Sylvia Chang spend many months editing away many dialogue scenes so that there will more space for the audience to think and form their own thoughts. Being able to relate to individual experience from the movie, the movie provides a channel for mental participation from the audience. At the end of the movie, besides watching a good movie, we also brought back our own memories of our loved ones.
Directed by Sylvia Chang张艾嘉, starring Joseph Chang张孝全 , Isabella Leong梁洛施 , Lawrence Ko柯宇纶, and Lee Sinjie李心洁 , the movie opened in cinemas on 23rd April 2015.
Catch it before it ends.
Taiwan review :
Actor and Director Interview