Soundless Wind Chime

Soundless Wind Chime

Rating: N/A
Year: 2009
Genre: Drama
Director: Kit Hung
Cast: Lu Yulai, Bernhard Bulling, Wella

In Search of Traces of the Deceased through a Dreamlike Amalgam of Reality, Memories and Imagination

Amalgamating reality with memories and imagination, Soundless Wind Chime is a dreamlike journey on which Ricky embarks in search of traces of his lover who has passed away.

When our lovers pass away, we tend to search for connections with them in a number of ways. We may call them and wonder if they will answer the call. We may visit their places and hug their belongings. We may believe a wind chime will ring when the souls come back as moths. Despite our awareness of their death, it is difficult for us to "let go" and we unconsciously want to get in touch with them. At the end of the film, the wind chime does not ring, which conveys a message that we have to accept the death of our beloved people, no matter how much we miss them.

The director's attempt to blur the boundary between reality, memories and imagination is much appreciated. For example, when an old lady with Alzheimer's disease suddenly and surrealistically sings and dances, it can be Ricky's imagination or the lady'’s memory. When Ricky's mother who is very sick can sing and walk, one may wonder if it is a sudden spurt of activity prior to collapse (迴光反照) or just her imagination. In Switzerland, does Ricky really meet someone who looks like Pascal or is it just his imagination that Pascal is still with him?

Switzerland, Hong Kong and Beijing are beautifully shot and their unique features are successfully highlighted. For instance, the Hong Kong scenes show an old fashioned Hong Kong Style Cafe (茶餐廳), Tenement House (唐樓) and Hong Kong trams (Ding Ding). Besides, the snowy mountains in Switzerland are breathtaking and the taxis in Beijing are very different from the ones in Hong Kong. These images will surely linger in your mind when you leave the cinema. What's more, I agree with the director that the Swiss scenes are more static than the Hong Kong scenes and the Beijing scenes are most realistic. I also agree that the Swiss scenes shot in winter capture the emptiness of the silent landscape, while the Hong Kong scenes shot in summer show the hustle and bustle of city life. This contrast symbolizes that Ricky and Pascal are physically distant. Apart from these, using a hand-held camera fits this dreamlike movie.

The mesmerizing music, spiced with a hypnotizing female voice and some sounds of a wind chime, not only matches the rhythm of this dreamlike story, but also adds melancholy and elegance to this soul-seeking journey. The haunting Chinese song sung by a little girl at the end of the movie also beautifully conveys Ricky’s feelings.

Lu Yulai acts quite naturally, while Bernhard Bulling slightly underacts his dual role as Pascal and Ueli who have very different personalities. The actress who plays an old lady with Alzheimer's disease delivers the most memorable performance and the middle-aged women (師奶) working in the Hong Kong style cafe act very naturally and bring the audience the most hilarious moment, despite their brief appearances in the film.

Despite the above-mentioned strengths, the movie is not flawless. First, the story interweaving the present with the past, combined with three shooting locations and the director's attempt to blur the boundary between reality and imagination, seems too much for a novice director to handle, which may lead to difficulty in following the story and understanding the messages, though I concur with the director that it may be a good idea to present a film about memories in a non-chronological fashion. Second, Ricky's motive for inviting a pickpocket to live with him is unclear and their relationship worsens too suddenly. Their relationship can be further developed so that more snippets of their love story can be recalled.

On the whole, Soundless Wind Chime, a poetic feast to the eyes and ears, will cast a spell over the audience. As a director’s debut feature, this beautiful movie is definitely worth our support.

Reviewed by: Kenji Chan