Can an object not accepted in the world because of its own nature can breathe in that world? In Queena Li‘s first feature film “Bipolar” (2021) that we had the chance to watch in the 50th edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), the universe presented to the audience unveils an ambiguous world starting right from the opening sequence. We witness the stages of the determined search under the sense of existence in almost every scene of the film, which progresses like solving a riddle. In this film, which has more than one unfamiliar universe in itself, you can come across the most enigmatic expressions of the flow of a life. Bipolar welcomes us with an uncanny, haunted and unusual cosmos with intense images.
Quest of Pythia
The fact that the lobster drifts from one place to another throughout the visual narrative in Bipolar, is similar to the quest of the Delphi Oracle in Ancient Greece. The issue of uncertainty that comes to the fore in the story of the film takes on a task that reveals the concept of prophecy even more. In search of absolute intimacy, Kun (Leah Dou) is aware of her own existence from the beginning of the film. She pulls strength from the lobster standing next to her, she set out with it and at this point, the inevitable masses of life begin to “happen” for these two one by one. Bipolar completely transforms them into pieces within their narrative. The intrinsic potential of the lobster to speak and thus express the verbal level of the film in its most basic sense is the most important key to the natural fluency in the film’s story. Especially the moments we see through the eyes of the lobster in the film further multiply the film’s imaginary and intellectual perspective. Although the narrative trends of the film have a characteristic visual quality in every sequence, the Bipolar‘s story offers an attractive presence unique to the cinema as an enigma.
In the first sequence of the movie, we hear a ring tone and visually we are in a completely pure water. Combining these two opposite points of communication with each other and presenting to us visually, Queena Li‘s multiple, simultaneous narratives open the door to a creative environment where every component is in relation to each other. The moments like this in the film, which seem to be completely independent, overwhelmingly present the uncharted side of the story. In this way, points that increase the connection between characters and objects can be more easily associated with each other. No matter for how long you watch Bipolar, it always leaves the impression that something is missing from the past and the present, and it is as if some information is being kept from us. This leaves us in search throughout the movie.
On The Track of Ming Island
In a sense, the presence of the lobster in the movie is the voice of the Sphinx, mostly in the sense of Greek mythology. Sometimes we observe what’s happening through his eyes and sometimes we see the places where he lives and shows his existence, completely moving away from his point of view. This dual point of view makes it easier for us to interpret what is happening both on the characters and on the lobster. While Bipolar offers us an endless adventure, a road story throughout the movie, the similarity between the lobster and Sphinx is perceptible both physically and sensually.
On the other hand, whenever the camera shows us the events through the eyes of the lobster, it feels like a mixture of animals whose body and head are different from each other. While this is the physical resemblance of the lobster to the Sphinx, it draws our attention with its sense of mutability; even if it gives the impression of being covered by hard clay, it can have a throbbing life in it. There’s also a puzzle element assumed by the lobster, so much so that if Kun could not solve the mystery she was in, it seems like it would immediately gut and swallow her. This perceived feature gradually strengthens the lobster’s compatibility with Sphinx. In this sense, we can say that the creative element that forces the possibilities of mystery in the film takes its power directly from the lobster.
Bipolar, which has a visual world unique to its name, gives its duality in search of the Ming Island. The universe structure created by the constantly changing camera use in the film easily molds the manic-depressive mood of a person. For this reason, in order to understand the essence of the title, it will be useful to pay attention to the use of the camera by the director and the language structure of the characters. The fact that the water factor always stands out more than any other element, is a very clever method to channel the tidal mood of the film.
Although in Bipolar, which appears as a single universe, Kun is in search of Ming Island, we also learn that the Ming Island itself was never to be found in the first place. It was already there. Nevertheless, the fact that we were in this pursuit of obscurity until the end of the movie shows that the name Bipolar is used very carefully. Is the name Ming, associated with fatalism according to the Confucian beliefs, a path of fate that we seek throughout the film? Another detail that caught our attention was the reflection of the lack of control of anything in life through the character of Kun and the island.
Becoming a Finite Singular
Holding all the potential to elaborate its material narrative, Bipolar offers the story of being problematic and finite throughout the singular. You can witness the drawing of a different universe in terms of both story and shooting techniques in this film which is shot in black and white. Remember that if you get lost somewhere in the film’s universe, all the answers are in Ming Island!