The River 1997
He liu (original title)
16 | 1h 55min | Drama, Romance | 18 February 1997 (Germany)
In Taiwan, Xiao-kang, a young man in his early 20s, lives with his parents in near silence. He is plagued by severe neck pain. His father is bedeviled by water first leaking into his bedroom and then flooding the apartment; rain is incessant. Xiao-kang’s mother is overcome by sexual longing for her son, sometimes making seemingly incestuous overtures. They try virtually every intervention for Xiao-kang’s neck: Western medicine, a chiropractor, acupuncture, an herbal doctor, and a faith healer, Master Liu. Are the family’s silent dynamics and Xiao-kang’s neck pain connected? And what about the body floating in the Tamsui River: is everything dead?
Every second of this film is calculated. Whether it is a shadow crossing a bed or the obstructed view out a doorway. It is an excellent story about taboo and how defilement can exist in many ways. The audience watches as a white-clad, pristine, Taiwanese youth is marred by his immediate environment, a close friend, and then his own family. The director illustrates Tai Pei as a filthy industrial cesspool by concentrating the film’s landscape in the inner city.
Besides the subject matter, the director uses agonizing long shots to make the audience uncomfortable. There is no soothing music, only the roar of cars and other urban noise. It left me breathless. The best film I have seen to date.
Director: Ming-liang Tsai
Writers: Ming-liang Tsai, Yi-chun Tsai
Stars: Tien Miao, Kang-sheng Lee, Yi-Ching Lu
Release Date: 18 February 1997 (Germany)
Filming Locations: Taipei City, Taiwan