Saturday, 17 September 2011

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One Day - SIFF 2011

Opinion: A-

Frustrating and perplexing this film's premise may be, but with some patience and an open mind this film will appeal gradually. With mesmerising cinematography to further visually emphasize the mind-blowing bold plot of dreams and parallel realms, One Day will likely be savoured by cinephiles like a inconspicuous candy melting away layer by layer as it stays in their mouths for 2 hours with a sweet aftertaste finishing.

The story of a young couple falling in love in meta-dreams is difficult to grasp, yet easy to feel. Singing works on a ferry where she encounters a cadet who tells her they are in a dream. In another dimension, she meets him in a study centre and they start dating. An elegant narrative structure ties both timelines together in this dreamy, languid charmer shot extensively on and near watery locations. Despite the slightly complex premise, One Day evokes the simple essence and unforgettable sweetness of young love.

The non-linear play of the narrative structure is usually a bold attempt at creating new perspective and allowing specific aspects of the story to be told in focus. For that I think it would be a less welcomed film as a commercial release, whose audience are readily consuming mindless entertainment.

If you belong to a group of patient film connoisseurs, you might be in for a treat with One Day.

Hou Chi-Jan's debut feature is nothing less of a novel genre creation that fuses minute aspects of romance, science-fiction, and mystery. Rather than describing it as a bit of every, it should be consider a breakthrough piece of filmmaking.

With a fantasy-like self indulgence, One Day takes its time to propose its jigsaw puzzle pieces one by one in jumbled order. Non-seasoned audience members will find themselves asking aloud throughout the screening towards their neighbouring companion (yes, they will not come alone). As a result they might not find the film as satisfying as those who invested their full attention in it.

Further elaboration of the plot in detail will do it injustice as it would definitely be a major spoiler. The true essence of the film is in its narrative structure, although it is not the only outstanding element. In a nutshell, it allows its pleasant looking couple to discover true love and indulge in each other's company. There is a clear question thrown out to the audience by the end of the film:

In knowledge that your partner would perish in the near future, would you still choose to be with him or her if you get a chance to start over?

So it is obvious that Hou is trying to propose the idea of indulging in the current tender moments of bliss rather than to treat love as a materialistic investment where a long-term return is desired. Based on this intention, Hou's frustrating non-linear narrative approach can be easily forgiven (at least to me!) as it befits the film's theme very well.

An idealistic romantic theme mixed with the gorgeous cinematography by Feng Hsin-Hua really settles the audience in delicate assurance. There isn't a lot of moving camerawork, but the static shots instill picturesque beauty. It allows us to easily dive straight into the magical realm of dreams where time seems to have halted for the entire span of its running time.

If only it could be possible in real life, where we tread in a dream of serenity until we wake up.

Nikki Hsieh Hsin-Ying and Bryan Chang Hsu-Hao may be fresh actors but their performance here is comfortable to the audience, largely to their chemistry that feels of the right tensity. There is also a random Indian dream character who instills bizarreness, but is seen as a symbolic icon of motif whose words begin to ring bells of familiarity after hearing repetitions of his foreign-tongued outcries.

With a cast that is comfortable to our hearts and visuals that is soothing to our eyes (Hsieh and Chang are also teenage eye-candies), One Day is a film that has to be seen (or dreamt, rather).

With patience, this might be a dream of delicate tenderness you will never want to wake from.


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