Director, writer and producer Lung-Yin Lim, started as a photographer earlier in his career and always has been passionate about the old school film camera; studied in Czech Republic and heavily influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky, Ohong Village was mostly shot in 16mm with various meaningful elements incorporated into the film.
Ohong Village uses the surrounding and people as the two correlated subjects to represent the circle of life and reincarnation. Set in a small oyster village below sea level due to the over-pumping of underground water, land subsidence has terribly affected the whole surrounding areas. There was no panic or evacuation, instead residents peacefully went on with their daily routine. “Everything in the film connects to the central message: reincarnation and generations interlapse. For example, how people walk on the same path as their parents. This kind of repeated behavior is just like a reincarnation of the life-choice.” said director Lim.
In the film, Sheng-Ji and Kudo wanted to leave the town and explore the world, as if the town is cursed by a predictable cycle of life. Director Lim describes it “like a coiled cable, as humans follow the surrounding paths (cable) but when the cable stretch, each individual find a new direction to go.” Ohong Village focusses on the voiceless people and using non-professional actors to portray the story to be more realistic. The men’s own self-esteem, greed and lies cause their lives to intertwine. It seems so valuable but at the same time so fragile. The more they realise the truth, the more they hold onto their religion, to fulfil the emptiness.
But can their faith to the religion be just as shallow as their desire and greed? In the beginning scene of the film, the Buddha statue is left on the isolated island itself; with the face blown off, you see the shallowness in the statue. As a representation of Nihilism that questions what is success, what is faith, and the definition of a good life. “The statue or religion is not symbolism of nihilism but a metaphorical representation.”
Instead of fixed storytelling on just one character’s life, the film shifts around and slowly reveals that the heart of the film is actually the surrounding and not the characters. Director Lim uses the style of long shot cinematography to represent the fourth wall in the room that’s prying and looking at the actors. “In fact, it’s almost as if the camera eye is the eye of God that is looking at them” explains director Lim.
Sombre and neutral colour settings combine the elements of mysterious and realistic styles; to express the film’s characteristics and identities. For example, the blue ocean represents nature slowly transforming into a more mystifying green that expresses the despair of the town. The burgundy red represents the religion, human passion, and life; ironically also showing people’s ignorance of passion even in a town that’s slowly sinking.
The music and sound design have alluring uniqueness that correlates with the film’s essence. Using traditional instruments such as suona and tanggu, and with a mix of cryptic deep synthesizer and naturalistic sounds. A dazzling arrangement between the traditional and modernist, a representation of intergenerational.
In the end, does this cycle of life continue to live peacefully within us? It seems in this such desperate time of life, director Lim is very hopeful with the future that lies ahead.
“I can see the changes in this new generation in Taiwan and also the crack of the traditional stubborn leaderships. That’s a sign of hope, the way I look at it. Perhaps we can’t break the cycle of life, but we can extend the road and go even further.”
You can listen to the interview in Mandarin here
Ohong Village is screening on July 25 as the opening film at the Taiwan Film Festival.
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Written by Benson Wu, Edited by Sonia Luan