Like thunderbolts across the sky, two HK film
legends come together in this fate-laden tale of immortal love and reincarnation.
In no other film (that I have seen) have Chow Yun Fat or Brigitte Lin taken
on roles that felt so personal and so intimate. Having watched them so
often in other types of roles, it is almost shocking to see these two exchange
dialogue such as Chow whispering “I love to be inside you” and Brigitte
caressing him with the reply “I love it when you’re inside me”. If it had
been two other actors it would somehow not have had the same effect, but
coming from Chow and Lin these words and other intimate scenes made me
close to uncomfortable. Of course, at the time they made this in 1986 neither
actor was the icon that they are today, so watching it now only increases
the power and impact of this film.
This supernatural film creates an eerie otherworldly
air about it that feels heavy with impending tragedy and fate. Though there
are no ghosts in this film, memories and flashbacks to another life almost
makes the characters ghostlike – spirits escaped from another time. The
film has some very intense, passionate and tragic moments that are wonderfully
acted out. Chow and Brigitte as well as Cher Yeung give very raw performances
that palpitate at times. Brigitte can be astonishing in a scene as simple
as taking a shower after a vivid dream and scrubbing like mad to get it
out of her system. Chow is brilliant as well in his moments of torment
as he has to let one life go and enter another.
The film begins in wonderfully gripping style
as Chow is conducting an orchestral performance and an image of a terracotta
warrior rising from the depths of the water flashes through his brain.
The image of the warrior is his very own. Chow collapses and his girlfriend
(Cher Yeung) rushes to the stage and shouts his name “Song Yu, Song Yu”.
This flows seemlessly into the next scene in which his name is again being
called out – but in a different time – and a different place - and
the caller is Brigitte Lin as she lies intertwined with Chow in bed. Chow
tells her “When you die, I’ll follow you. I won’t fear the loneliness of
death” This scene turns out to be a dream from Brigitte in modern day HK.
The two of them soon start seeing one another
in dreams and images – making love but also dying – and soon they inevitably
find each other in HK. Their lives begin alternating between light and
shadow as they try to understand the implications of all this. Cher takes
Chow to her blind grandmother who is a witch and the grandmother tells
him that he is a man from the Qin Dynasty – 2,197 years ago and that he
and Brigitte had been lovers then. Slowly as the dreams continue, their
past lives become clearer to them, but they must also deal with what this
means to their current lives and what ramifications it will have on others.
Is fate inescapable?
Though the film is fairly slow moving and poetic
in its mood and imagery, at the same time it manages to create a fair amount
of tension as these ancient lovers discover their past life and each other.
Yet, I found the resolution of the film a little unsatisfying and the ending
felt abbreviated – I thought it still had places to go with the story.
Still this is one of the classic HK new wave films of the 80’s directed
by Tony Au (Roof with a View and Au Revoir Mon Amour).
By the way I believe this was the only pairing
of these two stars in a film. It is kind of amazing considering that both
were such huge stars during the end of the 80's until the early 90's -
but for the most part they were doing two very different types of films.
As one last note, the actor who plays Brigitte's
father in the film - Kwan Shan - is in real life the father of another
well known HK actress - Rosamund Kwan.
My rating for this film: 8.0