Not my 'Soul' mate
By Wen Shin Kuo, The China PostFirst publicly seen at the 2013 Taipei Film Festival from June 28 to July 20, “Soul” (失魂) brought home four impressive awards, winning Best Actor for Jimmy Wang Yu (王羽); Best Cinematography by Nakashima Nagao; Best Music by Tseng Si-ming (曾思銘) and finally Best Narrative Feature.
August 30, 2013, 1:34 pm TWN
The main plot tells of a son, Ah-chuan, played by Joseph Chang (張孝全), who appears to be either schizophrenic or possessed. He is unable to work and therefore is sent back to his father, played by Wang, who lives deep in the mountains. In his unstable state, Ah-chuan kills his sister, and to cover his tracks and protect his son, Wang continues to kill for his son.
Promising as it seems, audiences walking out of the cinema seem to carry a look of bewilderment and confusion. “Soul,” like any movie, has a story to tell. The difference is that it is told through acclaimed cinematography and accomplished acting, as recognized by film academia.
However, the storyline is veiled through layers of symbolism, contrasts and film rhetoric. Father and son relations are discussed through gruesome and bloody murders which are filmed aesthetically. Aestheticization of violence is scene throughout the movie as the camera pans to beautiful shots of flowers doused in blood as a murder takes place right behind it.
Dialogue is scarce and the movie seems to be strung together by a series of murders. The reasons for the murders and the motives behind the actions don't seem to be explained very well. It seems like the director, Chung Mong-hong (鍾孟宏), wants the audience to look deeper into “Soul” and to be able to connect the dots on their own, leaving with their own interpretations. But that's just how you feel after you watch “Soul” — properly baffled and with too many questions bouncing off the walls of your mind. The ending never provides an answer, thus leaving many moviegoers feeling like the director is dancing a solo in an isolated world of his own.
A few minutes into the movie, horror film fans will realize that “Soul” isn't in fact a horror movie, but a psychological thriller slash art film. Ah-chuan's killings symbolize his journey to find his soul which he lost as a child in a traumatic event. His father's killings address issues of relationships and the love of a father for his son. The most frequently asked questions from audiences who have seen this movie revolve around the meaning of the three-hunters dream the seemingly possessed Ah-chuan tells his father of, as well as what the role of the messenger (an imaginative figure of Ah-chuan's) was.
But with so much discussion and dialogue through symbolism, analogy and other techniques, no final verdict or conclusion is ever given, and the film seems to fail to realize a final point. Does Ah-chuan finally find his lost soul? Does the “real” Ah-chuan ever return to him? Did his father gain anything from all the murders? Perhaps “Soul” is a really deep movie which explores the complex relationships between father and son, while at the same time experimenting with an avant garde method of portrayal. “Soul” may also be a film audiences will walk out asking themselves “what in heavens did I just watch?” ■