Posts Tagged ‘love and loss’

The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film inspired by the poetry of Du Fu

August 17, 2018

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.

I appreciate believable romantic movies. For some reason this one deeply moved me. I’ve watched A Good Rain Knows (when to come) (2009) several times. Also titled, Season of Good Rain, the film’s theme was inspired by a poem from Du Fu (Tu Fu). Love, like the right season, can come around again and potentially renew one’s life.

HUR Jin-ho directs this Korean-Chinese co-production. The love story stars South Korean actor Jung Woo-sung (Dong-ha) and Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan (Mei).

Season of Good Rain (A Good Rain Knows)

Synopsis: Timely like the spring rain, so has he come back into my life… Dong-ha is a thirty-something Korean man on a business trip to Chengdu, China where his company is carrying out construction projects to rebuild the city after the earthquake of 2008. There, totally by chance, he meets an old friend from his school days in the U.S.. Mei (May) is originally from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province. She returned home after graduation and now works as a tour guide. Dong-ha and Mei were perhaps more than friends and had feelings for each other back then, but they parted ways before they had a chance to define or declare them. Now that their paths have crossed again, they find the old feelings remained, and new ones are forming that may resemble love.

This Du Fu poem inspired the film: Welcome Rain on a Spring Night.

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.
It follows the wind secretly into the night,
And moistens all things softly, without sound.
On the country road, the clouds are all black,
On a riverboat, a single fire bright.
At dawn one sees this place now red and wet,
The flowers are heavy in the brocade city.

The brocade city is Chengdu, in south-west China, where the story takes place. The park where Mei works contains a statue of Du Fu and a replica of the hut that he lived in, along with the kind of flowering trees he had planted. Dong-ha was also a poet, but got caught up in his work instead. He is later seen reading a poem by Du Fu titled, A Spring View.

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
…After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
…I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

The subject matter about the destruction of war from the past resonates with the physical and emotional losses in the city after a recent earthquake. Mei’s life was also affected, as we find out later in the film.

This romantic film carries feelings of loss and longing, uncertainty and hopeful renewal brought about symbolically by the spring rains arriving in time. The theme song, with scenes from the film in the trailer, emotionally conveys those feelings: A Good Rain Knows When to Come – Falling Down / Song by Sungbin Cho / Sondtrack by Jaejin Lee.

The rain and silence in the song, like the ones described in the poems, seem to carry a mystical quality about them, similar to the mysterious ways of love. The English translation leaves the listener wondering if there will be a more committed reunion. Here it is sung in English: Falling down – (A good rain knows when to come).

Maybe sometime
It could be here again.
Trying to find out.
We don’t know yet.

Maybe it’s something
To make us come around.
The rain will be something
To let me calm down.

There is silence
Flowing around me
In the air
When you approach.

Maybe it’s something
To make you turn around
The raining is something
Just holding me now.

(Musical bridge)

I know that you wonder
Where we stay around.
Maybe I found you
Always here in my mind.

It’s falling around me
I’m feeling like lost in time.
I’m waiting behind you.
Just don’t let me down.

You’re running away now.
You’re sinking in flowing time.
The raining reminds me of your smile.
Don’t bring me down.

This love song, sensitively and beautifully performed, captures the uncertainty of their situation after meeting again years later by chance. The attraction between them is still there, but it never had a chance to develop into a serious relationship. Will it now? The song plays at the end of the film and as the credits roll.

Two different endings?

For some reason the ending seems slightly different in this version, which has better picture and sound quality on YouTube. At this last moment of the film, we see Dong-ha pacing back and forth, hoping that Mei will come out of the park entrance, but she doesn’t appear. It leaves the viewer hoping and waiting, with him. Did he return after much soul-searching ready to commit to her? Was she ready to commit to him? Will he wait in vain?

In this similar version, with English subtitles, at that last scene, as he turns away, we see someone pushing a yellow bicycle with a basket out of the park entrance, but can’t quite make out if it’s Mei as it cuts to black and the credits roll. Maybe they did that to keep us in suspense. You get the feeling they will see each other, but we’re left to wonder what will happen next.

The reason why I think it’s Mei is because he had mailed a bicycle to her as a gift. She had sold the first one he had given her when they were students, since she didn’t ride a bike. When they meet again, and it comes up in conversation, he gets upset. Now, at the end of the film, her co-workers assemble the new yellow bike with basket. We see her awkwardly riding it at first, then with more confidence, and finally smiling with the wind blowing in her hair. Fade to black, then wait for who I think might be her. I found another copy on YouTube where you see clearly the same bike and someone like her. Click on this 3-second clip to see for yourself.

For some reason it was left out in the other version. Maybe they decided to make it purposefully ambiguous to keep viewers guessing? Or it might have something to do with which version was shown in which country — Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, or elsewhere. If you watch the film with both endings, post a comment; I’d like to know your take on it. Assuming those links will still be active. Here’s a BluRay 720p version.

Updated footnote: I emailed an American film critic living in South Korea about the two different endings. He had reviewed this film. When I pointed out the different endings he was surprised, and said “that was a very good eye catch on your part.”

He didn’t remember which version he had seen and wouldn’t have noticed or guessed that it was Mei with her bicycle. But he did give this surprising answer. “If I were to hazard a guess I would say the version without the woman and the bicycle is the original version and the one with the woman and the bicycle was added in for international release (or at least, the release in whichever market CHC operates in) for the sake of implying a happier ending. This is a fairly common practice with exported South Korean films from this time period.”

You might enjoy some of my other favorite romantic films. They reveal the transforming power of love triumphing over adversity through time. Here is a new one I share in this post: Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The film Arrival asks: If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

March 12, 2017

The main question posed in the 2016 sci fi film Arrival is, If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

Arrival (2106)

When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) recruits Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist, and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, to try and communicate with the Aliens and find out why they have landed on Earth. Dr. Banks races against time to decipher their intent. As tensions mount between fearful governments, she discovers the Aliens’ true purpose and, to avert global war, takes a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. This mesmerizing masterpiece has a mind-blowing ending that will leave you wondering what happened and how.

That’s the external story, but the essential message of this movie is more internal. It’s about love, determinism and choice.

Based on the award-winning science fiction novella, Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang, it was convincingly transformed into a screenplay by Eric Heisserrer. Having read the book and been moved by it, director Denis Villeneuve wondered how it could be turned into a science fiction film, a genre he had been thinking about for years. When he received the script he decided he finally had to make this film, but with Amy Adams in the lead as Dr. Louise Banks. Even though she was taking a break from filmmaking, after reading the script, she was in. Everyone involved with making the film read the book and loved the story.

In the opening scenes we learn that Professor Louise Banks is losing her daughter Hannah to a rare disease. As a child, Hannah asks her mother how she chose her name. Louise tells her she has a special name, because it is a palindrome. It’s spelled and read the same way, forwards and backwards.

This is a clue that may help you make sense of certain events in the film that appear as flashbacks. Or are they flashforwards? Yet, in retrospect, it’s not the beginnings and endings that are important to Louise, but how she lived her life, the choice she made to love, regardless of the outcome.

Watching this movie was a right-brain experience; it’s non-linear. Dr. Banks goes through changes as she learns the Alien language. Their images communicate ideas in circles without reference to tense or time. Comprehending their language transforms Louise’s brain. She begins to experience the events in her life from a less sequential, more holistic perspective.

This is reality parsed and put together from a female perspective. She is the only one who can save the situation when she finally understands why the Aliens are here. The other challenge now is communicating it to a male-dominated world intent on destroying itself. This Chinese quote is another important clue: “In war there are no winners, only widows.”

Towards the end of the film, having collaborated with and seen how brilliant, brave, and compassionate Louise has been throughout their encounter with the Aliens, and the Army, Ian realizes he’s fallen in love with her. As much as he was amazed by his encounters with the Aliens, his “greatest surprise” he tells her, “is you.”

To love is human. It takes us out of our time, because Love Is Eternal. It always Is. We participate in It. If we are lucky enough. I wrote this as a comment to my son who purchased the film and sent me the link. I couldn’t help turning it into a tanka.

After watching “Arrival” (2016)

To love is human
It takes us out of our time
Love Is Eternal

We participate in It
If we are lucky enough

© Ken Chawkin
Mon Apr 6, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa

You should see this film twice to better understand and appreciate it. Below is the trailer, followed by the Featurette on the DVD Extras.

This DVD Featurette gives you a perspective of what went into the making of the film: Arrival (2016) | Behind the Scenes | Understanding Arrival | Full Extras | Full HD.

Better to see the film first before seeing these explanations. Nick Statt wrote a great article for The Verge on living with the power of choice: How the short story that inspired Arrival helps us interpret the film’s major twist. ScreenPrism offers an intelligent explanation of the ending of this film. And ChewingSand shares good insights in this video: Why ARRIVAL is Great Sci-Fi. There are more explanations on YouTube.

See a fun, informative post-screening SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview: Conversations with Amy Adams and Denis Villeneuve of ARRIVAL.

Links to the beautiful Arrival Soundtrack – On The Nature Of Daylight by Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson – Heptapod B [From “Arrival” Soundtrack / Pseudo Video].

Wikipedia gives a comprehensive review/explanation of the film, which might include some spoilers if you haven’t already seen it yet.

Also see these favorite romantic films of mine. They reveal the transformational power of love over time.


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