Ming-liang Tsai, one of the most eminent Taiwanese directors thanks to whom the Taiwanese cinema language keeps growing and being heard globally, joined the 70th Berlin International Film Festival in the Competition category with his latest movie Days (Rizi) which is, in a way, a visual spectacle that never underestimates the importance of time.
A Poetic, Roaring Silence
Days (2020), starring Kang-sheng Lee (Kang) and Anong Houngheuangsy (Non), has a peculiar way of revealing the unseen as well as its own story. This production, whit a story unfolding around only two protagonists in a theatrical-like setting, has no dialogue at all. The only talking there is, one might say, metaphorically speaking, lies in the eyes of the characters. This silent narration especially preferred by the director, seems to respect the silent cinema period on one hand, and on the other hand proves how heavy emotions can be left on the audience without the use of dialogue.
With this special preference, the director opens the door to access an endless understanding of cinematic language. So there is no need for expressions to prove a direct expression in the movie. At this point, the words that pass through the mind are collected in the eyes, not in the mouth. In Days, one can easily focus on the eyes of the characters. We can access the entire unheard audio script there. This silent narration in the movie allows us to discover more than what the characters say to each other or to themselves. Most importantly, in this way, one can see more clearly what a character is doing in their daily life, which can help the audience create their own language.
Using Objects as Expression
In the background of Ming-liang Tsai‘s Days, like Chantal Akerman‘s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, or as in Lars von Trier‘s Dogville, you can easily see how things flow in the background and create their own language. From this perspective, you can read the language of both the characters and the objects used in the background and foreground in Days. It will not be difficult for us to comprehend the presence of the film as a result of its essence because there are elements in the story that you can emotionally identify yourself with.
The Emergence of Naturalness in the Artificial World
Ming-liang Tsai has traced daily simplicity in a thought-provoking way with this film. Some sequences of the film are shot with fixed-camera position and this creates a free environment for a one-to-one interaction with the movie. The distribution of objects in the space took place so naturally that we as viewers, suddenly replace the character of Kang; one can feel leaned into the basin, washing the vegetables. The success of the director here is superb because you may never have leaned in your life to wash vegetables in the basin on the floor, but you can feel Kang‘s actions very vividly in your seat, in the comfort of a movie theatre.
Squeezing Between the Walls at Home Never Made It Feel So Alive
Kang, portrayed by the successful Taiwanese actor Kang-sheng Lee who previously starred in two films of Ming-liang Tsai (What Time Is It There? and The Wayward Cloud), metaphorically speaking, kills all the walls of the hotel where he goes to renew his soul. This never makes the audience feel trapped. Kang-sheng Lee, who invited the viewers to the walls of his mind with his performance, continued to leave us under the influence of the film for a while, long after we have left the movie theatre.
Drawing the Loneliness
There are multiple works of great painters reflecting the sense of loneliness, and what makes us think about them is the massage scene in the hotel room. We can easily say that it is the equivalent of these great paintings, but in a cinematic form. One can very well see the reflections of silence that continued even after this scene as a conversation of loneliness. This long sequence, which is one of the crucial points in the film in terms of management and fiction, is perhaps one of the scenes that symbolizes the longest loneliness in the history of cinema. We feel very lucky that we had the chance to watch this movie and furthermore meet the crew at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival this February. We desperately hope that the duo, Ming-liang Tsai and Kang-sheng Lee, will work together again in the future.