Friday, November 29, 2013



ECLIPSES (2012, Daniel Hui, Singapore, A+30)


The reasons why ECLIPSES is my most favorite film I have seen so far in 2013 include:


1.I just feel that the wavelength of this film suits me very well. Hahaha. It is very difficult to explain about this topic—the wavelengths of films. But sometimes when I see a film, and the film unexplainably makes me feel very great, I think it is because the wavelength of that film matches the wavelength of my own. ECLIPSES is one of the films that make me feel that way. I’m not sure why almost all the scenes in this film make me feel very great.  I love the scene in which we see the heroine (the grieving woman) descending a stair. I love the scene in which we see the blurry figure of the old man coming out of a toilet. These scenes make me feel very great or make me feel sublime, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with my subconscious.


It is certain that the wavelength of each viewer is different from one another, so each viewer is unexplainably impressed by different films.


2.There’s a scene in ECLIPSES which unexplainably makes me cry. It’s a long scene in the early part of the film in which the heroine takes a train. I don’t know why this scene makes me cry. I don’t think the director intends to make the audience cry for this scene. I just know that this scene attacks me very forcefully. This scene inspires me to imagine about the grief of the heroine, the sadness of a woman who has lost her dear husband prematurely, or imagine about other kinds of sadness, the sadness of an ordinary person who must try to live on no matter how much grief he/she has inside. This person must go to another place in order to perform his/her daily tasks. She must go on living. Persons who are close to her also must go on living. The train keeps moving on, and will keep moving on no matter how sorrowful any passengers may feel.


What I’m interested in this scene includes the fact that this scene doesn’t show the sadness directly. I just imagine the grief of the heroine by myself. I feel very much involved in this imagined grief. I can’t stop this feeling, and ultimately cry for this scene. I’m sure there are many viewers who don’t feel anything for this scene. This scene just touches me personally, and I am not sure why this scene can overwhelm me like this.


Maybe one of the reasons is because this scene reminds me of myself. When I saw the heroine in this scene, it reminded me of myself when I took a skytrain in Bangkok. When I take a skytrain, I may think about many things or may have some strong feelings inside, but I don’t show them on my face. Sometimes when I take a skytrain, I may feel extremely sad, may be contemplating suicide, may be in great despair, may feel a lot of hatred for somebody, or may be in great joy, but I don’t express these feelings verbally, because I don’t talk to myself on the skytrain. Hahaha. I also don’t express these feelings on my face on the skytrain. I suppress these feelings and show a calm face, no matter how strong the feelings I have inside.


Thus when I saw the heroine of ECLIPSES in this scene, it reminded me of myself. It makes me think about the conflict between “what you see on the face of a person” and “what that person actually feels”. That’s why I like this scene very much, because it allows me to imagine about the grief of the heroine. This kind of scenes is rare, because most films like to show the grief of the characters explicitly. Most films also don’t have a scene which can inspire my imagination like this.


(While ECLIPSES unintentionally makes me cry, my second most favorite film of the year 2013, which is A HARDSHIP OF A LAMP, TRYING TO BE LIKE THE SUN (2013, Thanapruet Prayoonphrom, 63.53min),  unintentionally makes me cry, too. This Thai film makes me cry for the dialogue of the hero in the last scene of the film, and the slow fading to black at the end of the film. There are some similarities and differences between ECLIPSES and this Thai film. I will write about them later.)


ECLIPSES also reminds me of another Thai film that I like very much, This film is RAW SILK COCOON, SIAM, SAD BANYAN TREE (2013, Teeranit Siangsanoh, 38min), because RAW SILK COCOON unintentionally inspires me to imagine about the grief of some characters, and makes me cry a lot for this imagined grief, too. These two films have the same kind of effects on me. RAW SILK COCOON shows us some labourers who are doing their jobs and walking around, and focuses on a beggar who plays a violin for the song “SAD BANYAN TREE”. This film doesn’t show a glimpse of sadness of these labourers and the beggar, but this film unexplainably inspires me to imagine about the hardship in the lives of these people and how they might feel about their lives in this indifferent capitalist city of Bangkok. This film doesn’t give any information about the labourers and the beggar. Contrary to what I imagine, these people may not feel sad at all. But I couldn’t stop the tide of sad feelings inside me which was caused by my own imagination, and that’s why I cried a lot for RAW SILK COCOON.


In conclusion, both ECLIPSES and “RAW SILK COCOON, SIAM, SAD BANYAN TREE” make me cry, because both films unintentionally arouse me to imagine about the grief of the characters. These imagined griefs are very powerful for me, much more powerful than the griefs which really exist or are shown explicitly in other films.


3.ECLIPSES belongs to a group of films which I like very much. I always like films which show that “each character has some strong feelings inside, including some frustration, some anger which is difficult to express. Each character has his own problems. Each suffers in his own way. Each character lives his own life. Each character’s life does not exist just to “support” the main characters. Each character has a full life of his own.”


ECLIPSES belongs to this group of films, because ECLIPSES does not focus solely on the grief of the heroine, unlike such films as RABBIT HOLE (2010, John Cameron Mitchell). ECLIPSES shows that no matter how sorrowful the heroine may feel, other persons around her still live their own lives. Their lives don’t exist just to support the importance of the life of the heroine. These persons have their own lives, have their own sorrow. Some of them may have even experienced more sadness than the heroine, or have experienced much more difficulty in their lives than the heroine.


That’s why I like the way ECLIPSES treats people who appear in the film. While ECLIPSES inspires me to imagine about the grief of the heroine (by not showing the grief straightforwardly), ECLIPSES also shows me that no matter how sorrowful the heroine may feel, she is not a special person. She is just an ordinary person like everybody else. And some other ordinary persons may have sadder stories to tell, or their lives may even be much more interesting than the heroine’s life.


ECLIPSES reminds me of another film which I like very much, which is BUNNY (2000, Mia Trachinger). BUNNY presents a sad life of the heroine, and I cried a bucketful of tears for her sad life. But BUNNY also shows us that the heroine is not the only person who has a sad life, because there are many characters in BUNNY who have sad lives, too.


4.I like the fact that ECLIPSES focuses on daily lives of some people, or lets us see things which seem to be insignificant, or things which are likely to be overlooked or deleted from other films. For example,


4.1 The lives of some people who work in a school canteen, and the atmosphere of this canteen


4.2 The work of a maid and her singing


4.3 The scene in which a middle-aged woman elaborates on a pension fund or a stock fund, which seems to be an important thing in the life of this woman.


I like the inclusion of this scene in ECLIPSES. In other films, scenes about a financial topic like this are usually included because “the scenes are important to the story, or will lead to other events in the film which will alter the lives of the characters”, such as in LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE (2011, Johnnie To). But in ECLIPSES, this scene and some other scenes are included, not because they are important to “the story”, but because they present “an aspect in the life of a person,” and that reason alone is enough to make it worthy to be presented in the film. We don’t have to create “a story” to support the showing of that aspect of life. We don’t have to overemphasize or exaggerate that aspect in the life of a person. We just present it as it is.


4.4 If I remember it correctly, there is one scene in the film in which we see a character moves out of the frame, but the camera still keeps rolling on, and we see an unknown woman walks into the frame to buy something in a market, and the camera keeps on recording this activity for a short while.


I like this kind of scenes very much. It reminds me of films made by Teeranit Siangsanoh, who is one of my most favorite directors. Teeranit likes to record “daily lives of unknown ordinary people” in his films. His films are full of scenes like this: scenes which tell no story, scenes which seem to present nothing significant at all. We see unknown ordinary people perform some daily tasks in his films. But somehow Teeranit can create an overwhelmingly poetic experience out of these scenes. ECLIPSES has roughly this same kind of effect on me, too.


This scene in ECLIPSES also reminds me of A HARDSHIP OF A LAMP, TRYING TO BE LIKE THE SUN, because in A HARDSHIP OF A LAMP, which presents the hardship in the life of the protagonist named Bew, and which employs long shot in many scenes, we often see “unknown ordinary people” walking into and out of the frame in front of a 7-eleven shop. These ordinary people appearing on the screen are living their daily lives. We see these unknown people living their lives no matter how much sorrowful or joyful Bew might feel in the same scene. Even though Bew’s dreams are shattered in the scene, we still see these unknown ordinary people living their own lives. They still keep on going to buy something at 7-eleven, because they have the lives of their own. Their lives do not exist just to be “supporting characters” for Bew.


That’s why I think my most favorite film of the year (ECLIPSES) and my second most favorite film of the year (A HARDSHIP OF A LAMP, TRYING TO BE LIKE THE SUN) so far have something in common. Both of them presents the sadness of the main character, but also shows us that people who are around this main character have the lives of their own. The life of the main character is not the center of the universe in which other characters must revolve around. The differences between these two films are the methods they use. ECLIPSES shows us the interesting lives of other characters by using extreme close up and monologues. A HARDSHIP OF A LAMP, TRYING TO BE LIKE THE SUN uses long shots in which the main character doesn’t occupy large space in the frame, but occupies as small space as other characters.


5.I like the monologues in ECLIPSES very much, including the monologue of a man from Bangladesh who talks about his life, the monologue of the old man who talks about his life, the monologue of the heroine, and the monologue of the middle-aged woman. The monologues of these two female characters remind me of some writing in stream-of-consciousness style. I think all of these monologues are very powerful. I feel as if the person who talks in each of these scenes sends some powerful feelings towards me directly. At first I intended to go to see this film for the second time in the festival, partly because I wanted to remember more details in these monologues, but unfortunately I got sick and couldn’t go to see it for the second time.


The monologues of the old man and the man from Bangladesh impress me in the same way as the film MODERN LIFE (2008, Raymond Depardon). Because I think that the monologues in ECLIPSES and the interviews in MODERN LIFE can capture “the souls” of the interviewees very powerfully. This is in contrast to some documentaries in which the interviewer can only get “the information” from the interviewees. MODERN LIFE and ECLIPSES are extraordinary, because what they present is not only the information, but the souls of the persons.


If I have to screen ECLIPSES with another film, I may choose to screen it together with MARITIME (2012, Dean Kavanagh, Ireland, 12min). MARITIME seems to show a small moment in the life of a man, but somehow the film can give me an extremely sublime feeling or some powerful indescribable feelings. This indescribable quality, this focus on daily or mundane activities, and this baring of the soul of the character are the reasons why I would like to show these two masterpieces together.


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