Days of Being Wild 阿飛正傳
Director: Wong Kar-wai
Cast: Leslie Cheung, Carina Lau, Rebecca Pan, Maggie Cheung
Remembering and forgetting is not only about the love stories and feelings of the characters, but also the history of the city and self identity. The 1960 setting for the story matches with the old songs featured in the films give audience impression of the era back into the past, the characters and the stories give the impression of youth and energy, they are still in the mood for passionate love with vigor and vitality. The film name also reminds us of an old film Rebel Without a Cause (1955), the era with a forever memorable star James Dean and his image similar with Yuddy. The setting also remind people of classic Hong Kong culture, the dance ball and nostalgic old song in the background, the local unique restaurant where the characters go to have lunch/tea, etc.
In the film, memory is explicitly discussed. Yuddy always claimed to be forgetful, evident by the dialogue with So Li-zhen that he forgot how long they met, and his direct mention of forgetfulness in dialogue with Tide. However, we would understand he remembered that particular minute with So Li-zhen at the end of the film. He actually cared but refused to acknowledge it and admit the truth.
When the subject matter is discussed broader in terms of city and homeland, it would reflect the people’s attitude and worries towards Hong Kong’s future. The colonial history would sink to the past and the hangover to China would come. Days of Being Wild is a film shortly after 1989 June 4 massacre and it brings us a question along with Yuddy’s comment at the ending of film: would forgetting actually be better than remembering? Forgetting may set us free but in reality is it possible to erase the memory in our own hands? The director brings us these puzzles and it may never come to full resolution as same story would apply to another set of people and all things would repeat again in the vicious cycle.
The importance of being remembered is also brought to table. So Li-zhen wanted to know if Yuddy remembered the moment, Yuddy’s foster mother would prefer Yuddy to hate her rather to forget her; Tide sighed So Li-zhen might forget him already when they met again. Hence in this way, the society (the city) could never forget, because she is the carrier of all these memories, and she records all these experiences and embraces it into the landscape. The city planning could change entirely and the buildings and houses would collapse or rebuild, this film already help shape the contemporary image of Hong Kong in her colonial period, when days could still be wild.
Search of root is a way to find one’s existing value and realize the self identity. The bird without legs is a legend, yet a cruel truth to Yuddy as well. Yuddy could not settle down at home because he was homeless since birth. The love from mother is the element he would never receive in his life. He did not choose to become the birds without legs, but the light steps following music and the shot showing his back without return already drive to the conclusion that Yuddy could only be flying till the end and the scene that Yuddy walk further and further away from the camera hints the character would die with the knot and never resolve his issue.
Other characters have the home issue more implicitly portrayed. The cop became sailor after his mother’s death, he began to be on the drift after he lost the closest family or home in Hong Kong; So Li-zhen had her real home in Macau and she experienced an inferiority living here when talking to the cop, like she never really belonged to here but Yuddy gave her the sense of belonging. That would possibly explain she would like to have permanent relationship with Yuddy in order to establish the self-identity in Hong Kong. She felt happy when Yuddy agreed to let her live with him while sad when Yuddy seemed uncared of the existence of relationship.
Encounter and miss would be another theme to express. People could not end up together because of wrong timing. Leung finally went to Phillipines and found the apartment, yet Yuddy already died; So Li-zhen finally called the cop, yet he already become a sailor and could not receive the call. People sometimes have chance to meet each other but could not develop further and deeper relationship. The director here uses camera techniques to show their brief encounter would end nowhere, like the cop and So Li-zhen, Leung Fung-ying and Zeb, the shot often focus on only one person in their together scenes. Leung danced in front of Zeb, or Tide waiting for So Li-zhen, the scenes show one person on the upper layer while another on the lower layer. It is another evidence for them not to be together. Furthermore, sometimes the narrow focus would mean the person who the character is talking to only acts as the background, like the scene of So and Tide’s talk about the one minute. So refused to eat Tide’s oranges while Leung refused to take Zeb’s car would be another evidence.
Finally, these love stories are not only occurring in these characters and they would pass along as they are common and all people would be haunted by loving the wrong person or missing the right person. Therefore, the film has allowed a continuity to send us a message about Yuddy’s death would not mean his personality’s death. Chow Mo-wan’s presence would be a metaphor for the society that there are a lot of people like him. In addition, when So opened her mind again and became ready for starting to love again, it has reinitiated the atmosphere for love to enter, meaning hope would continue and the character is still on the ride. Maybe there would be hurt in the journey, however after the event the characters, which resemble you and me, could still stand up and bravely strive for one’s own happiness.
After all, everyone would experience the same struggle and painful memory in different ages of their life, however, to remember or to forget is up to everyone’s free will. Remembering the experience and learning from it would help shape a better handling of relationship in the future while forgetting the feeling would help relieve the emotional burden of your own self.