Wednesday, April 2, 2008
While I was still thinking of the way Ann Hui constructed memory and cultural identity in Song of the Exile, another newly released film by Wayne Wang titled A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, which is screened in this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival, served as a good reference for me to think out of the box.
Both of the films were about parent-child relationship but instead of using lots of flashbacks, this later film by the director of Joy Luck Club talked about memory basically through dialogues and the acting of the father and daughter only. They were all being told in the present tense, which seemed to convey the fact that past is already past. Though it shaped what we are now, there is no use to be troubled by those bygone memories. Instead, we should think of the better side, just like what the father has said to the old lady in the park.
We used to think that conflicts between generations were mainly created by cultural differences and it is. Yet apart from this aspect, Wang's film has highlighted other aspects that could best parallel to Hui's film. The heroines in both films were situated to receive education abroad which provided a preconceived base of difference between their mindset and that of their last generation. Stuart Hall's idea of "diaspora identity" was mentioned as one "produces and is produced by a specific cultural environment." However, these external social factors are often emphasized to such an extent that other moral or psychological factors have been undermined. These factors had been the main focus in shaping one's memory in another recommended film for discussion–Atonement, in which the heroine's memory is constantly struggling between real and constructed fragments due to her guilt for her sister. The real and unreal interlaces each other in a way that even the heroine is gradually losing hold of her true memory.
Both Hueyin (Song of the Exile) and Yilan (A Thousand Years of Good Prayers) refused to talk to their parents face to face due to their guilt of misconduct in the past (basically their own character), not necessarily about their country, their homeland.