The Phantom Carriage (1921)

New Year’s Eve is deemed as the one poignant day upon which humankind bestows great introspection and reflection on the past year in perspective of their life thus far. “What have I accomplished?” “How have I changed?” “Am I truly ‘one year older and wiser’?” “What does my future hold?” These are a small sample of the questions we may ponder on this day. Many celebrate the fresh hope and opportunity that arise from self-analysis, while others may unfortunately be left feeling despondent. “The Phantom Carriage” is a 1921 Swedish silent film directed by Victor Sjostrom displaying the extreme ends of this pendulum of thought taking place near the midnight hour of this very fateful day of contemplation.

Sister Edit (Astrid Holm) is a highly benevolent yet naive worker of the Salvation Army who is sadly near death due to tuberculosis. During the greatest depths of her illness on New Year’s Eve, she asks her mother (Concordia Selander) and dear friend Sister Maria (Lisa Lundholm) for a man named David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) to visit her. Before meeting this character, a sentiment of disdain and anger has already cultivated towards him. Upon meeting him, the contempt harboured towards him seems quite justified. He is also completely ignorant to the cautionary tale his friend Georges (Tore Svennberg) had told him about “The Phantom Carriage”. The very last person who dies on New Year’s Eve must drive the carriage, and they must also be at all costs obedient to Death itself. Little did Mr. Holm know that he would meet that fate and be greeted by a dear friend who, as in similar fashion to Jacob Marley, prompts ample pause for the “maturity of the soul” through past events, behaviours, and untimely consequences.

vlcsnap-2013-11-04-01h14m13s157

I would be amiss if I did not discuss the technical brilliance of this film. I cannot imagine that double exposure techniques were frequently developed in film at the time. This is absolutely central in increasing the effectiveness of telling this particular story. Furthermore, I found the tones of the images were interesting with brown being representative of indoor settings and blue of outdoors. Neither colour is particularly warm, potentially symbolizing the false sense of shelter in which Holm has enveloped himself. Furthermore, several images in this film have been highly influential in shaping the structure of “The Seventh Seal” and “The Shining”, two of the most iconic films in cinematic history in my opinion.

“The Phantom Carriage” itself is a burden to the lost spirits who have to carry its weight for a full year. However, it is also a symbol for the spiritual and emotional strain that many drag with them on a daily basis. Many of our actions and thoughts are resultant of fear, contempt, and anger. In other words, they are reactionary to the lack of core vitality and humanity necessary to achieving wholeness and true presence. Decency, kindness, and compassion embody the true human condition. Overall, this film does an exemplary job in reminding viewers of the importance of responsibility, love, and respect as integral aspects of our functioning. Grief for former possibilities can be devastating upon the realization of their potential.

4962_4

I do not own any of the above images.

This post is part of the Happy New Year Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog! Please click on the link to check out other posts discussing films which take place on New Year’s Eve!

happynewyearblogathon8

 

Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

Human connection is a vital aspect of our daily functioning. It lends us security, comfort, solace, and even a breadth of opportunities. It also allows us to express our inner hopes and desires to others, with the prospect of attaining harmony and fulfilment. Conversely, crafting and sustaining these relationships can unfortunately be met with an underlying assumption that truth must be concealed for fear of judgment and reprehension. Our human core fears rejection, and these undeclared “differences” must be hidden from plain view to conserve our social pedestal. This den of secrecy can include friendships, parent-child and sibling relationships, and marriage whereby we must “please the other” while sacrificing our own integrity at times. The 1973 TV miniseries from Sweden entitled “Scenes from a Marriage” directed by the always introspective Ingmar Bergman examines the damage that this suppression of honesty can inflict upon a relationship.

Johan (Erland Josephson) and Marianne (Liv Ullmann) are celebrating ten years of idyllic bliss with a magazine spread declaring their tips and tricks for a conflict-free marriage. Johan is a psychology professor at a prestigious institution, Marianne is ironically a divorce lawyer, and they have two beautiful children – the poster of familial perfection. Piece by piece, this picturesque facade crumbles. Over the six-part miniseries, their marriage is intimately dissected through pivotal interactions or “scenes” that occur over a ten-year period. Their relationship dissolves and reignites several times throughout this journey, and viewers learn that their actualities had always been concealed to appease those closest to them in their lives. The blossoming of their authenticity is therefore fundamental in ensuring the growth and sustainment of their connection.

710id_038_w1600

It has been previously mentioned that the series indeed is comprised of specific “scenes from a marriage”. Each episode provides us a snapshot into the much-needed, honest conversations that have been festering for many years in the lives of this couple. The simplicity of the cinematography and conviction of the lead actors force us to focus on the evolving genuine dialogue between them. It is well known that Bergman and Ullmann’s relationship was a great source of inspiration and material for this whole premise. This carefully composed examination is indeed a case of art imitating life or its past, and the palpability of this very common and relatable story remains exceedingly current.

In general, discussions on any topic may be quite effervescent and fleeting in their beginnings. Over time, they hold the power to drive opinions and shape perceptions. Our pre-existing views enter into discourse, subsequently influencing our presentation of topics and others’ interpretations of unfolding events. Furthermore, our individual worlds are the consequence of thousands of personal experiences and stories that we bring subconsciously into every interaction. This film is one glorious example of how these ideas culminate into expression and empathy within a relationship that mirrors many of our own truths and realities.

41-ksfojtkl

I do not own the above photos in this post.

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

The concealment of deceit has been a longstanding tradition in society. The maintenance of facades grants this continued perception while allowing one to experiment and examine various interests outside of these so-called constraints. This exploration may allow one to transition into another chapter in their life, such as a career. However, traversing this course in the realm of any kind of relationship can create confusion, hurt, and future mistrust branching into subsequent bond formation. These taxing situations have nonetheless been highly mimicked and lauded in film, generating suspense, concern, and sometimes comedy depending on the plot. The concept of relationship deceit is one such theme that produces a lot of “trouble in paradise”. The master of subtleness Ernst Lubitsch directed the delightful 1932 Pre-Code romantic comedy with the title of the aforementioned quoted phrase, crisply navigating the previously discussed theme with great wit and intelligence.

copy_of_troubleparadise5

The film begins with thief extraordinaire Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) putting forth multiple illusions of himself. One is as a doctor, robbing the wealthy Francois Filiba (1930s screwball staple Edward Everett Horton). The other is as a wealthy baron in the city of Venice. He meets with Lily Vautier (Miriam Hopkins), who is impossibly the most social socialite among royalty. Unbeknownst to them both, they are highly professional thieves. This discovery launches a seeming whirlwind of fraudulence and dishonesty. After Monescu robbed a peace conference and “took everything except the peace”, we are introduced to the wealthy Parisian cosmetics maven Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis). Through a myriad of circumstance, the two crooks begin working for Colet with Monescu turned Gaston Lavalle at the helm of her finances! Multiple love triangles, derailed plans, clever lines, glamour, possession, jealousy, and most of all sexual tension blend together to develop an utterly and daringly original film.

Lubitsch employed many innovative techniques in the film’s portrayal of sexuality. The Hays Code was definitely impending on Hollywood at the time that this film was created, as much nudity and seduction were increasingly prevalent in studio pictures. While many films were amplifying overt sexuality, Lubitsch slyly inserted multiple ploys to scandalously include sexual encounters between unmarried individuals. A wine bottle, shadows on a mattress, a clock, innuendo, and yet sometimes complete silence are some examples allowing the audience to make insinuations and draw conclusions. The light atmosphere and comedy help to mask this film as a nearly innocent, oxymoronic portrayal of layered deception. While the film was not reissued during the Code era, the act and craft of masquerading ultimately lends the film itself added charm, depth, timelessness, and a rewarding stamp in cinema.

trouble-in-paradise-francis-hopkins-marshall

I do not own the photos in this post. As well, this is part of the SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog! Please have a look at the other great entries over this weekend contributing to this blogathon discussing sexuality and film.

Screenshot 2017-05-03 23.34.13

 

 

Mulholland Drive (2001)

The presence of dreams on one’s life course can fluctuate but it is ever-present. The precise meaning of the word “dream” varies as well. Firstly, our ambitions/dreams create purpose and drive, focusing our attention towards actualizing achievement and hopeful fulfillment. In viewing and experiencing struggles and successes, we experience the unfolding reality of these aspirations. Furthermore, we think of the word in terms of neuronal firings and subsequent image displays of random events that have occurred in our reality while asleep. This combined with yearning daydreams can alter our own perception of the truth, dismissing actualities of our surrounding environment. “Mulholland Drive” is a 2001 psychological thriller directed by David Lynch delving into these fascinating concepts with the ultimate appropriate backdrop – Hollywood.

The tale begins with an impending kidnapping turned car accident on Mulholland Drive. Laura Elena Harring is the sole survivor, fearful for her safety and eventually hiding in a wealthy woman’s townhouse who is coincidentally and thankfully going on a vacation. Meanwhile, Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) is a starstruck, wide-eyed, and aspiring actress who comes to Los Angeles from Deep River, Ontario. The very fashionable landlord Coco (the legendary Ann Miller) guides Betty to her Aunt Ruth’s luxurious townhouse. Betty discovers a female unknown to her in the apartment, who happens to be the lady who escaped the automobile accident. She calls herself “Rita” after seeing a movie poster of Gilda in the bathroom, diving into an episode of amnesia. Betty initiates and becomes entangled in a quest to rediscover Rita’s true identity. Further interrelated subplots occur during the story as well. They include a quest to find the dark-haired lady, revelation of a frightening dream in a diner, and threats to control a well-known director’s vision for his upcoming film. These stories culminate in a mind-blowing finale, introducing many more questions than answers.

primary_mulholland-drive-criterion-2015David Lynch is a master of detailed ambiguity. The majority of his films and TV series are filled with hidden gems and facets that are imperative in untangling non-linear screenplays. The beauty of his narratives are that these items and other plot devices are often unclear, as well as the presence of an obscure division between reality and fantasy. We therefore bring our own experiences, values, and beliefs in interpreting his films and creating meaning unique to our lives.

I must also highlight the collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti. His musical contribution to the brilliant Twin Peaks invites us to speculate impending doom yet appreciate beautiful simplicity. In this film, he accomplishes the same feat via minor chords and synthesized sounds. Silence is also key in appreciating moments of intensity and characters’ emotions, and the lack of music in those scenes is essential in accurately conveying those expressions.

mullholland_drive_blue_hair1

Crucial events in this film begin and end on Mulholland Drive. It is in this location whereby false hopes, shattered dreams, and lost identities unfold. The film industry certainly has its glamour, but it is not without its struggles especially related to control. Many other industries can create a facade of prestige, attracting naive, hopeful youth into their dream factory. This milieu can lead an individual to be swallowed whole by figurative piranhas. Large portions of their individuality, belief system, and personal lives may be sacrificed to mould their new and more amenable selves to the profession which now presides over their every move. Some may unfortunately not have the option to voice their opinions due to potential volatile oppression in these settings. While sometimes extremely difficult, the importance of maintaining our truths and being vocal can help to ensure that our principles are upheld in the face of major power imbalances.

5539

I do not own the above photos in this post.

 

Hoop Dreams (1994)

The social determinants of health are a group of factors which influence the health and well-being of populations. They include education, literacy, income, housing, food security, culture, and genetics among others. These elements collectively impact and determine health outcomes of a population, but can also be applied to an individual’s life trajectory. If there are certain determinants inadequately present in a person’s surrounding environment, the ability to live comfortably and/or to achieve daily or highly sought after goals becomes increasingly difficult. “Hoop Dreams” is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James highlighting the multiple elements shaping the courses of two promising basketball players’ futures.

Dem-3 Photo. Helene Jeanbrau © 1996 cine-tamaris.tif

William Gates and Arthur Agee are two fourteen-year-olds living in inner city Chicago in the late 1980s. Insurance agent Earl Smith acts as a basketball recruiter for the prestigious private St. Joseph’s High School, priding themselves on their eye for talent and crafting of basketball stars. Both teens begin attending this school, making a long trek daily to advance their education and sportsman skills. The viewers are bystanders to their challenging and sometimes arduous journey from freshmen to the end of high school. Both face incredible uphill battles, from financial to familial to physical struggles. We yearn and cheer for their success and achievements as do their families and friends, and we greatly empathize with them in their trials and tribulations. The community of team sports is quite evident in the film, and that spirit is tangible through the screen.

The concept of “dreams” is present throughout the documentary. The two teens at the film’s epicentre undoubtedly have aspirations to finish high school, go to college, and to ultimately play for the NBA. However, their triumphs and ambitions extend beyond their individual selves and infiltrate into many other systems. Family members may live vicariously through them to relive their lost hopes, but family may also view their ambitions to chase and pursue their own goals. The talent of one may be preyed upon by a recruiting organization, fulfilling their “dreams” of winning competitions, grooming their novices into polished players. Behind the interrelated web of those beneficiaries, supports, and challenges lies a fire. This fuels drive within us all to pursue our passions and purposes. Roadblocks may be insurmountable at times in even thinking about those aspirations. However, I feel that it is crucial to remember and continue to follow these wishes and intentions no matter the speed. These passions and interests are a core aspect of our identity, and our participation in related activities whether large or small allows us to inhabit our true selves and to blossom more fully.

2523fd2b-86d2-4e8a-966f-7238e3b95d7d-1020x612

I do not own any of the photos in this post. As well, this post is part of the Play to the Whistle Blogathon hosted by Film and TV 101 and Reffing Movies. Please check out posts regarding sports-related films associated with this blogathon between June 3 – July 8 (I am putting up my post early)!

img_1713

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

Ingmar Bergman is one director who I feel has left a body of work that represents the complicated and sometimes disappointing reality of human nature. The intricacies of human relationships are on full display in his films, delving into associated stressors and supports. A great deal of time is devoted to essential character development, enhancing viewers’ understanding of said relationships. The cinematography is carefully composed with a haunting tone under the direction of frequent collaborator Sven Nykvist. These are all hallmark components to a Bergman film. However, I feel that the openness of the stories allows for much introspection and meaning applicable to one’s own life circumstances. Through a Glass Darkly is a 1961 Swedish Academy Award-winning drama directed by Bergman embodying these qualities in spades.

The film is set on a secluded island during the hot summer months, and events gradually unfold over a period of twenty-four hours amongst four principal characters. Karin (Harriet Andersson) is the central character, fragile in nature. She was recently discharged from a psychiatric facility, having been treated with electroconvulsive therapy and diagnosed presumably with a psychotic illness. She has an overarching delusion with religious overtones infused with auditory hallucinations, dictating and controlling a large amount of her decision-making and behaviour. Her husband, physician Martin (the legendary Max von Sydow), is extremely devoted to Karin and concerned for her well-being. Her father David (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is an ailing, self-serving writer who sometimes uses others’ suffering as subject matter for his novels. Her brother Minus (Lars Passgard) has an unhealthy, immature, and extremely close attachment to Karin, yearning for attention and approval from his father. It can be deduced from descriptions of these close-knit yet diverse group of characters that confusion, conflict, and lament fill their existence and interactions. Overall, I feel that the film challenges our thoughts on familial relationships, mental illness, death, culminating into a surprising yet inevitable finale.

throughaglassdarkly1

The title “Through a Glass Darkly” is derived from the following Corinthians verse:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Verses from the Bible or any manuscript based in religion can have a variety of interpretations by modern readers. In my humble opinion, this verse refers to our own self-image and beliefs. They may be distorted by multiple environmental and internal factors, casting a dark shadow on our true abilities and goals. As Karin states, “it’s so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it”. Recognition of illness and/or suppression by concerned and caring strangers, friends, and family can elevate our self-esteem and self-awareness. Our evolution into genuineness may be supported by them or shunned based on outside expectations. Regardless, a wealth of knowledge and soul-searching in our “face to face” meeting with either a higher power or ourselves stimulates pause for reflection on struggles and joys in our past.

As with many Bergman films, glimpses and explorations into human connectedness are in action. Minus wonders whether “if everyone is caged in. You in your cage, I in mine”. We all experience this sentiment in life at times, some more frequently than others. The truth is that we never act in isolation or in microcosms. Human nature and relationships are dynamic, changing, and influence our very being and direction on planet Earth.

march-blind-spot-through-a-glass-darkly1961-l-ku1lo4

I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is part of the “Favourite Director Blogathon” hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Midnite Drive-In! Please check out other posts about excellent directors in cinema that are a part of this blogathon!

favorite2bdirectors2bblogathon2balfred2bhitchcock

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Family is an integral aspect and concept inhabiting human existence. Conflicts among those closest to us are inevitable, and their eventual resolutions may be civil or volatile. We also depend on familial relations for support, love, and resiliency. Joyous occasions, such as a birth, can facilitate immense celebration and happiness. An illness in a family member can create fear, panic, reflection, yet enhanced connectivity. Thus, it is quite evident that the idea of medicine extends beyond physical and mental illness to encompass the vital component of familial coping and interaction with their loved ones. “A Woman Under the Influence” is a brilliant 1974 drama film directed by John Cassavetes, demonstrating the wide array of familial emotions in the midst of a loved one’s illness.

Nick Longhetti (Peter Falk) is a hard-working construction worker married to Mabel (Gena Rowlands) and father to three children. He is quite preoccupied with others’ perceptions of Mabel’s eccentricities, and serves to exert a great deal of control over her decision-making and her behaviour. Mabel is acutely aware of this power dynamic, and puts a great deal of effort in trying to be a great “hostess”. She is greatly disturbed and confused by others’ expectations of her behaviour, manifesting into odd mannerisms and occasional outbursts. A variety of events over the course of a day including questionable conduct at a children’s party to a heated confrontation with her mother-in-law Margaret (Katherine Cassavetes) led to Mabel’s certification and involuntary psychiatric hospitalization for six months. Upon her return home, the familial expectation was complete cure (i.e. acting within the norms of society). It quickly became apparent that illness in any shape or form involves recovery – experiencing life in the present and using healthy coping strategies to deal with daily challenges.

6e0ee7101fa1f130314398ea13187b4b-a-woman-under-the-influence-1469430411

This film has multiple assets which effectively conveys the stressors involved in living with mental illness. The acting is absolutely sublime. Peter Falk palpably harbours anger, confusion, and discontent with the reality of his ideal vision of family. The supporting cast’s emotions greatly increase the intensity and concern of their loved ones. However, I feel that it is Gena Rowlands’ acting talent and complete engulfment into Mabel’s world which makes this film a classic. She epitomizes the central struggle of a fragile individual living with a strained marriage and mental illness. As well, the long scenes feel improvised, allowing the viewers to watch an encounter where individuals’ behaviours evolve. Emotions heighten, and behaviours may become more unhinged and disintegrative in realtime. This enhances the fidelity of the film to many real-life circumstances, whereby the snowball effect leads to a potential familial crisis and an eventual intervention.

I believe that the title of the film lends itself to a variety of interpretations. Specifically, how was Mabel under the influence? Were her behaviours a manifestation of alcohol use, true mental illness, her personality, her reality, or her family’s expectations? In truth, a multifaceted lens needs to be adopted in understanding anyone’s behaviour. Psychiatry as well as other areas of medicine operates under a biopsychosocial model, in which biology, psychology, and social factors contribute to wellness or illness. Culture is another component influencing health care professionals’ and the public’s opinions on the manifestations of mental illness. Mabel’s behaviours and eventual hospitalization were not solely from an organic basis. They culminated from many aspects and ideas of our Western societal and cultural perception of illness, norms, and wellness.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

I do not own any of the images in this post. This post is also a part of a blogathon I am hosting between May 26 – 28 related to Medicine in the Movies! Please check out other related posts over the next few days as we discuss the impact of the medical field on cinema!

oie_yqU5SVcKigzS

3 Women (1977)

The value of individuality in many cultures is immeasurable. Some feel as if humans cannot actualize or achieve their full potential until they have reached a consensus of inner solitude and clarity in understanding their true identity. The pressure and temptation to idolize and acclimate with supposedly “greater versions” of ourselves can prevent or hinder that valued pursuit of unique identity discovery. Some may subsequently become illusionary with their position in the social sphere as well as their untouched persona.  3 Women is a 1977 avant-garde drama directed by one of the gurus of ensemble cinema, Robert Altman, which explores the extreme benefits and costs of collectivism versus individuality in a Western society.

Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek) is an impressionable, clingy teenage girl from Texas who begins working at a California health spa for senior citizens. Millie Lammoreaux (Shelly Duvall) is a highly valued employee of the spa who orients Pinky to her new work environment. Pinky is infatuated with Millie, viewing her as an inspiring, mature, majestic human being who is loved by all. When the opportunity for becoming Millie’s roommate appears, Pinky is only too thrilled to oblige. The third woman, Willie Hart (Janice Rule), is pregnant and paints ancient, mythical, human-like creatures as a means of expressing her perception of reality in the midst of loneliness, suppression, and exceptional introversion. Willie’s obnoxious, womanizing husband Edgar (Robert Fortier) co-owns the apartment complex in which Pinky and Millie live. His presence and distastefulness create great divides and power struggles amongst the three women. Each woman faces and deals with alienation, frustration, and restlessness via distinct and various means which transitions through roads of unity, seclusion, and eventual resolution.

 

The themes in this convoluted, at times dreamlike film hones understandably into its complexity. Mimicry, reclusiveness, fear, guilt, unison, facades, and personality are some of the notions investigated which emerge from each woman’s evolving sense of relating to their world. There is no hero or villain as is the case in reality. There is an aura of vanity, shame, and uneasiness in many actions executed in the film, which is highly relatable to humankind. The actors, especially Spacek and Duvall, embody this concept remarkably well with great chemistry, thus enhancing the viewer’s discomfort with recognition of their own past sometimes regretful actions. Further through incredible direction, cinematography, and fantasy, this intricate film taps into the raw curiosity, shame, guilt, conflict, and concordance of the human experience.

 

3women-750x400

I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is a part of the Decades Blogathon hosted by Thomas J and Three Rows Back! Please check out their blogs over the next couple of weeks to read about films from years ending in the number ‘7’!

decades-17

 

La Strada (1954)

An allegiance towards a person, group, or larger organization creates a sense of familiarity, grounding, and purpose in one’s destiny. Loyalty can allow an individual to flourish and grow with encouraging and proper supports. It can also perpetuate a sense of fulfillment and community. Conversely, loyalty may lead to subtle suppression of unique traits with authoritarian and dominating persons in one’s inner circle. Attachments, perceived rewards, and dependency are some factors continuing this reinforcing cycle. Various forms of abuse may emerge and propagate from this pattern. The devastatingly beautiful  “La Strada” is a 1954 Italian drama film directed by one of the masters, Federico Fellini, which examines such a relationship between a meek and mild young female and a domineering circus performer.

Gelsomina (Giuletta Mansina) is now the eldest daughter in a family living in poverty following the death of her sister, Rosa. Her mother begs her naive and impressionable daughter to travel with Rosa’s former travelling circus partner, the intimidating and vain strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn), so that the family’s basic needs can be met in the form of 10,000 lire. Gelsomina subsequently embarks upon this journey with her new work partner sometimes posing as a husband due to their living arrangements. Zampano’s expectations of Gelsomina’s abilities as a drummer, trumpeter, and announcer are slowly approved, but she remains subdued by his control. Her meeting and evolving friendship with the talented tightrope walker and rival of Zampano named Il Matto (Richard Basehart) implants an idea of individuality and strength into her innocent mind. Other events, encounters, and themes surrounding guilt, loss, sensitivity, faithfulness, brazenness, tragedy, and dignity additionally shape the course of the characters’ future paths.

The title translated into English means quite literally but also figuratively “the road”. The main characters work and nomadically live out of a tiny trailer attached to a faulty motorbike to earn a living. A great deal of time is spent on “the road” traversing from one community to the next, showcasing Zampano’s chest expansion abilities. However, the title refers to our evolution in our personal growth and relationships with and towards others as we face the ultimate joys, challenges, and sorrows. This is all part of the human experience. It is essential that we learn and nurture one another through this unbelievable and humbling adventure, as positive support systems are necessary for us to achieve our full potential while travelling through our personal highways.

90625-004-c0b931e4

I do not own the above image.

 

 

Yi Yi (2000)

Films transport us through a vast ocean in the spectrum of emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, and pure bliss are just some examples. They also convey amplified yet sometimes realistic portrayals of life events which themselves stir the deepest sentiments in viewers. Those very tales may have occurred in the past, present, or are impending in the lives of those who are engulfed in the film’s reality. The beautiful 2000 film “Yi Yi” directed by Edward Yang is one of the greatest examples of everyday characters highly representative of many moviegoers. One of the characters in the film states that “movies give us twice what we get from daily life” by living vicariously through their eyes, hearts, thoughts, and actions.

The story focuses on the intergenerational Jian family from Taipei. Each member faces trials and tribulations that are central within their particular stages of life. The adorable eight-year-old Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) is quite the school prankster but is extremely inquisitive in trying to understand life’s truths. His teenage sister Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee) is challenged by friendship, loyalty, lust, and loss. Their parents, NJ (Nianzhen Wu) and Min-Min (Elaine Jin), are separately questioning the course of their life trajectories. Their maternal grandmother (Ruyun Tang) suffered a hemorrhagic stroke early in the film, and family members aim to provide care and comfort in her final days on Earth. The film also traverses through a variety of life events, including a wedding, a funeral, a business trip, a Buddhist retreat, and a birth. Many other characters interact through each family member’s storyline and these events, playing integral roles in reflection and personal growth via various interweaving perspectives and differences.

There was one exceptional detail of cinematography that I found quite intriguing in this film – the use of glass and mirrors. Often, there would be two differing scenarios reflected by two sides of glass, usually a windowpane. The simultaneous struggles of two separate individuals were mirrored within the same frame, alluding to humanity’s worldwide daily clashes and endeavours. The use of mirrors would reflect the emotions felt by the characters in a 360-degree realm, a point accentuated by Yang-Yang. He feels as if he needs to look at the back and front of a person to truly appreciate their emotional undercurrents, and this technique allows us as viewers to do the same.

The title “Yi Yi” translates to “A One and a Two”. That particular phrase is commonly used as a brief warm-up signal prior to a musical performance. In relation to the film, NJ reveals to a potential business partner that he ended a romantic relationship secondary to the partner’s lack of appreciation for music. That action impacted his future, just as decisions made within the arrangement of a musical composition can dictate many facets of its performance. Extending beyond that example, there are many within the film warning of probable conflicts. Approaches and compositions in preventing turmoil can be quite different. Every decision we make can have positive or negative consequences, and we must face the outcomes if possible with great composure and consideration. In other words, it is important to manage our roles in life patiently – one step at a time.

films_of_the_decade_yi_yi

I do not own the above image.