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Tsai Ming - Liang
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  Cycle index  
The River
He liu
dir. Tsai Ming-Liang / Tajwan 1997 / 115’
subtitles: Polish and English
retrospective: Tsai Ming-Liang

Cast

Lee Kang-sheng, Miao Tien, Lu Yi-ching (jako Lu Hsiao-ling), Ann Hui, Chen Shiang-chyi

Film description

The River is a direct sequel to Rebels... We watch the same family in the same places. This time Hsiao-kang suffers from a strange infection - exposure to a contaminated river causes a mysterious neck disease which deprives the boy of control over his own body and which cannot be cured by any specialist. The River is a radical move from the plot to symbolism. The disease symbolises not only man's alienation in the contemporary world, but also of the deepening decay of family. This decay can be seen in the film's structure: it takes us quite a long time to realise that the characters form a family, they are almost never shown in a single frame. Another strong symbol is water, of course. Tsai Ming-liang says: I believe that people are like plants. Plants cannot live without water. People alike, they wither away without love. And in the film, water - which signifies both craving for feeling and the infection - shows how often the two phenomena blend into one. The complicated family relations lead toward sexuality with the recurring, ambiguous theme of homoerotism. Extreme isolation of the son, his father and mother finds a counterpoint in moments of shocking and crushing closeness.

Karolina Kosińska

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