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Pre2000sWongKarWai:

OnTheFunctionofSuffering
ByLoeweDenktenWir(IsabelDavidson),Seminar2

Themosthumanthinghasalwaysbeenirrationalthought.Ofcourseitisalsohumantoseek
organization,safety,andcompanionship,buttheblipsinwhatmakessensetousisthemostinteresting
aspectofhumanlife.Thethefactthatifaplayerishurtonthecourteveryonetakesakneetoshow
vulnerability&caringdespitethatactionnotmakinganysortofrationalsense.Wespendsomuchtime
andenergygoingoutofourwaytobeinterestingandmeaningfulforthoseweloveandwanttonoticeus.
Itsamatterofchoosingtodosomethingkindforanotherpersonoverdoingwhatisthemostbeneficial
forus.Naturally,thisleadstoafairamountofsuffering.Thethingsourbrainswantwithoutmuchtoback
ituparethethingswewantthemost.Often,thewayswesacrificeforotherpeoplebecomesaformof
suffering,butitisalsosomethingweneed.MollyRaynor,apoetfromAnnArbor,oncewrotetomy
friend,heartbreakiswhatremindsusthatwearealive,inthiswaysufferingisimportant.Thereare
goodpointsinourlives,irrationalthingswereceiveandcontinuallyholdontolikefamily,butthenthere
islossandfearandallthesestrangenuanceswhichcutinalmostsubliminally.Isometimesfindmyself
forgettingforweeksatatimethatmytwinnearlydiedlastyear.However,whenIthinkbackonsomeof
themostdefiningmomentsformyfamily,thehospitalwasthefirstplaceIsawmyparentsholdhandsin
adecade.Itsnotsomebigdramaticgesturelikekissingsomeonebeforetheyleave,theyjustsatona
couchtogethersilentlywhileIbroughtcoffeefromacrossthehall.Somehowthatsufferingistheonly
timeIthinkiveseenthempurelyvulnerable,allfear.Whatismorehumanthanunderstandingtheskin,
brain,muscleyoucamefrom?

PartOne:WongKarWai
WongKarWaiisachinesedirector,screenwriter,andproducer.Hismoviesareknownglobally
bytheirfamouscinematographyandincompletenarratives.WhatprimarilyinterestsmeaboutWong
KarWaisworkishowhecapturesasituationwithouttryingtoexplainit.Hisfilm
HappyTogether
isa
ChineseromanticdramaabouttwoMenlivinginArgentina.Itcentersaroundtheirturbulent,andoften
abusive,relationship&howitevolvesoverashortperiodoftime.Thefilmwas,initiallyconceivedto
bethreehourslongbutwascutbythefilmmakertoshowatCannes,(Lalanne9).ManyofWong
Karwaismovieshavebeenchoppedorbeenpartsofunfinishedseries.ThoughWonghastheabilityto
continueworkontheseprojects,hehasdistinctlyshownsignsofmovingawayfromthosecharactersand
narratives,butusingtheactorsandactressesoverandover.LeslieCheung,theactorwhoplaysPoWing
in
HappyTogether,
alsoappearsinleadingrolesfor
DaysofBeingWild
and
AshesofTime.
The
incompletenatureofhisfilmshasbeendescribedasacleverwayofonlygivingabriefglimpseintothe
morecomplexlivesofhischaracters.In
DaysofbeingWild,
Wonggoesasfarasintroducinganew
characterinthelastfewscenesofthemovie,andthennevercomingbacktoit,likeacliffhangerina
crimeshow.Wongusesthisideaofchoppedrelationshipsandsnapshotsoflivestohelpcapturevery
privateintimatesceneswhichareneverexplainedorarefullyaccessibletoanyaudience.
HappyTogether
isagoodexampleofthewayWongusesthistechniquetospeakontheimportanceofpersonalsuffering.
Theideaofcreatingcharacterswhoarenotbuilttobeunderstoodfullyisaninterestingone
generallycharacterdevelopmentfollowsapathwhichallowstheviewertowatchgrowth:startingwith
thecharacterbeingmorallyquestionableandleadingtoaclimaxwhereinthecharacterlearnshowto
betterthemself.In
HappyTogether
thecharactersLaiYiuFaiandPoWingarebothmanipulative
towardseachotherandsometimesoutrightabusive,attheendofthemovie,botharerecoveringfrom
heartbreakbuthavenotentirelylearnedalessonfromoneanother.Theprimarygoalofthecharactersin
themovieisneverresolved,butotherideasofgrowthandmaturityarebroughttolightbyexploringthe

endofthisrelationship.Itisaverysmallsnapshotoftheirlife,startingquicklywithoutexplaininganyof
thenuancesoftheircharacterbeforethrowingthemdeeplyintotheirlivesandendingrightasFaireturns
hometohisfamily.Theideaofanunresolvedandtumultuousnarrativefeels,tome,likethequestions
peoplehavebeenaskingmerecentlyasIfinishhighschool:Whatisyourfavoritehighschoolmemory?
Whatwasyourfavoriteyear?Whatwillyoumissmost?Least?Thesequestionshaveusreexamine
entireyearsinasetofscenes.Ithinktheshotsthefilmmakerchosetoleaveoftheoriginalthreehoursare
allsoincrediblybeautifulandimportant,eachonehasbeentrimmedneatlyfordisplaybutitwasnever
supposedtomakesensetoanyone.Whensomeoneasksyouyourfavoritememoryfromhighschoolitis
ananxiousthing,atearingquestioning,notaviolenttearbutlikeaimlesslyrippingpaper:itisaskedbya
relative,administrator,survey,aboutyourtime,how
they
didorasawaytoconnecttheirfaintmemories
toyours.IwasaskedthisrecentlyinagroupoftwelvepeopleandIremembersayingsomethingalong
thelinesof,mybestfriend,herdog,hermother,andhermotherswifethrewmethefirstbirthdayparty
Ihaveeverhadanditmeantalottome.WhatIdidntsaywas:thatwasthefirsttimeIhadexperienced
family.ThenecklaceshegavemeissomethingIunquestioninglywraparoundmyneckeachmorning.It
isoneoftheonlypurelygoodthingsIhave.Ithinkthebriefpauseonthismomentofsufferingwhichcut
sosharplythroughthesetwomenisaboutaspersonalamessageasWongKarWaicouldgiveus.Itisnt
amomentwherewecanconnecttotheirsuffering,butitisamomentthatchangedthecourseoftheirlife,
minustheunveilingoftheeffectivechange.
OnethingwhichwasespeciallyinterestingaboutthispiecewasafactIfoundfrommyonline
source,
TheChinesetitle(previouslyusedforMichelangeloAntonioni'sBlowup)isanidiomatic
expressionsuggestingtheexposureofsomethingintimate.(TonyRayns."HappyTogether(1997)".
TimeOutFilmGuide.Archivedfromtheoriginalon12,October2008.)
Thisseemstomelikesucha
beautifultitleforthismovie,itisliketheviewerisseeingsomethingsecretwhichwasleakedonthe
internet.Tomeitgivesthepenetratingfeelingofsadnesswhichoverlapssomuchwiththenarrative,

somethingitjustdoesnthavewiththetitle
HappyTogether.
Itbringsinawholeotherelementof
humanismwhichIthinkisthebirthplaceandthegraveforallsuffering.
Irrationalworry,fears,thoughts,andactionsarethethingsthatstandoutthemosttous.Things
thatmakenosense,likeMrs.VailflappingherGregorwings,makeuslaugh.Oldcouplesdancinga
waltzattheairportmakeusuncontrollablyupset.Thereisnologicbehindthethingsthatcreatethemost
emotionforus.WongKarWaismovies,andespeciallythoseformattedinthisstyleofchoppy
unfinishedbits,givethatfeelingofimmenseemotionthroughouteachscene.OverandoverIsuckedin
mybreathwatchingthismoviefornothing,buttherewassuffering,somethinghardhittingineverything
thatmylungsknew,maybemybrainjustisn'tthereyet.ThevideoclipIincludedaboveismyfavorite
sceneofalltime.TherearetheseshotsofHongKongupsidedown,shotfromavehicledrivingaround
theoutskirtsofthecityonthefreeway,smallnoisesplayinthebackground,nothingclosetomusic,just
soundsyoumighthearwhilesittingonyoursofaathome.Thesoundofthisquiet,distantnoiseandthe
upsidedownbuildingsissomethingthatisreallytouching.Tomeitbringsmebacktolearningand
tracingoutthedetailsofmyhome,upsidedown,whenIwasachild,hangingovertheedgeofthesofa.I
rememberreorderingmyhomesowecouldstilllivelikethatnormally,justgoaboutourbusiness.But
forFai,itislikehavingmemorizedyourmotherslaughandreplayingitinyourheadwhensheisnt
there.Thisincrediblyfamiliarandachingplacewhichisexactlyoppositetheworldfromhishometurned
upsidedown,andstillgoingaboutitsbusiness.Thereisasufferingherewhichissoincrediblyprofound
andallencompassing.Maybeitisthatheislivinginacitywhereeveryoneisastranger,butthatistrue
abouteverycity,youjustfeelprotectedwhentherearefamilymembersaroundyoulivingandwatching
thesameshapesgoby.Theresafamiliarity,afamilialfeeling,justhavingyourfamilyviewthisperson
withyoubringsyoucloser,andthatissomethinghedoesnthaveaccessto.Faihaslosteveryonehecares
aboutatthatpointinthemovie.Heisalonemorethoroughlythananything,herethefunctionofsuffering

washelpinghimrememberhishome,findawaytogohome,confrontthemainconflictinthemovie,and
moveonfromPoWing.

Parttwo:TheBacchae&Freud
TheBacchae
wasmyfavoriteofthebookswereadthisyearandwillprobablyendupbeingthe
storyImakemykidsreadwhentheyareyounger.Itissuchathickplaywhichtakesaveryliteralimage
ofirrationalthought,Dionysus,andputshimintothisdirectpowerstrugglewithamortalman.Thisstory
touchedonirrationalityinawaythatissomewhataestheticallydifferentfromWongKarWai.Ofcourse
hisfilmsclearlydepictpowerstrugglesandimbalancesindynamicsofrelationships,buttheoverall
cinematicapproachleavesaprofoundfeelingofsadness,loneliness,andlove.
TheBacchae
carries
themesofsadness,loneliness,loss,andlovesuchaswhenAgavetearshersonsheadoff.However,
naturally,thereisthisfarremoved,brutaleffectwhichcomeswiththemaindialogueoftheplaybetween
DionysusandPentheus,andthefinaldialoguewhereAgavelearnswhatshehasdone.
InthispiecetheformattingislesscomplexthanWongs.Theideaofachoppednarrativeisonly
vaguelycreatedthrough
TheBacchae
.Eventhisisprimarilycarriedbythenaturalmediumofgreek
dramaandtheassumptionsitupholdsfortheaudiencetounderstandthebackgroundofgods&
characters.However,thoughthestorydoeshaveaprettyobviousmorallesson,itseems,more
importantly,tocommentonthefunctionofsuffering.ItsmainpointsseemsimilartoSigmundFreuds
mainideathatsexandpowerfueleveryaction.Tomethesetworeadingstouchedonthefunctionof
sufferinginthesensethatitnotonlyhelpsuscometorealizations,changes,andimportantmomentsin
ourlives,italsopushesustoreexamineourviewofourselves.Freudwasthefatherofpsychoanalysis
andthefirstpsychologisttotalkabouthumansnaturalanimalisticurgesastheyshowupineverydaylife.
Ofcourse,Freudishighlycontroversialandprettymuchjustwrongaboutmostthings,butthepower
dynamicsthatheexploresareinteresting.In
TheBacchae,
PentheusfightswithDionysusoverwhois

morepowerfulopenlyandobnoxiouslyforaprettysignificantamountoftheplay.Aftercominghometo
disarrayandchaos,Pentheuscontroloverhistownisquestionedbyastrangerwhoclaimstobeagod.
Hisnaturalanimalisticinstincttoprotecthisterritorycomesinandhefeelstheneedtoasserthis
dominance.Inthiscase,thesufferingwhichcameofhismistakehadthefunctionofenhancingthepower
ofDionysus.Freudwouldprobablyfindsomethingmoresexualwithinthistext,however,bothseemto
agreeonthefactthatmuchofhumansufferingandpainisnecessaryforustobeapartofsociety.Freud
thoughtthatwesufferedbecausewerepressedanimalisticurges.
TheBacchae
arguestokeeppower
complexestoyourself,andtorememberyourplace.Essentially,
TheBacchae
isadecentsummaryof
howFreudseesanimalisticrepressionfindinganoutlet:violenceandchaos.Althoughthisisabitmore
extremethanthesubconsciousdesiresandfantasiesindreamswhichhefocusedon,healsothoughtthat
repression,whennothandledanddischargedhealthily,wouldleadtomassivedramaticburstsof
animalisticrageandsexuality.Inbothinstances,therepressionandtheanimalistictendencies:territorial
Pentheus&violentAgave,arebothseenasnegative.However,sufferingthroughabalanceofthetwo,
repressionofanimalisticinstinctandmeasuredreleaseofthatrepressedenergy,isnecessaryforsocietyto
befunctional.
WhileWongKarWais
HappyTogether
ismorefocusedonthepersonalnecessityofsufferingin
ordertobeabletogrow,Freudand
TheBacchae
giveaglimpseoftheimportanceofsufferingfroma
societalperspective.Thoughtheirfocusesarenotequidistantfromhumannature,theybothprovidean
importantfullidea.Whilethelattertwocommentonthesocietalbenefitsofsufferinginhelpingstabilize
oursocietythroughsacrifice,
HappyTogether
speaksaboutthesameideaonamorepersonallevel.Itis
humanforLaiYiuFaitowantlove,companionship,andhome,butthisanimalisticsexualattractionand
ragecreatesaturbulenceinhisrelationships.ThesufferingoftheargumentsbetweenheandPoWing
helphimlearnhowtohavehealthyrelationships,whatdoesanddoesnotworkforhim,howhecanmove
onwithoutbeingdraggedbacktoPoWingbyhisanimalisticattraction.Itisanimportantbalancewhich

weneed.Asateenagerwhohasstruggledthroughliterallysurvivinghighschool,Icansaythebasicsof
animalisticsurvivalarenotalwayseasy,butinordertogettocollege,payforcollege,andgetintoa
programwhereIcanstudytheartswassomethingIhadtoworkreallyhardfor.Therewerealotoftimes
IcouldntdoitandafairamountoftimesIdidnt,butlearninghowtointegratefightingmynaturalurges
tostopandletmyselfbedonehavegottenmealotfurther.Itisahardfight,thebrain.Youcantcreate
peacewithit,itisanoisytenant,butsomewherebetweenthebodiesweinhabitandthebrainswhich
createdusthereisabalancewhereweperchuponsacrificeinordertoachievesociety.Organizedsociety
isnotsupposedtoexist,evolutionarilyspeaking,andwewouldntifwedidnthavesufferingtobalance
on,butisntitsomethingtohavegonethisfar?