20 December 2009

Eternal Summer

Lately I have watched quite a few Asian films, especially Taiwanese and Korean ones. Eternal Summer is one of those that I have managed to watch despite my increasingly busy schedule (Facebook is, of course, to blame for this!). I didn't know anything about this before, but the idea of a triangle love relationship among two men and one woman sounded pretty interesting, especially when a man and a woman compete for the same guy.

The gender dimension does add some spark to this film, as it makes the whole thing much more complicated. Jonathan and Shane have been best friends since childhood with the former secretly falling in love with the latter. The film focuses on Jonathan's sexual growth, from innocence to gradual acknowledgement of same-sex desire. However, for him, Shane is obviously a straight guy stereotyped by his gifted ability to play basketball and, thus, being a heartthrob at school. Yet, Shane seems to be loyal to his best friend and spends more time with him than other people, thus making Jonathan at once fragile, confused, angry, and frustrated.

The entry of Carrie into their lives changes the structure of their relationship, as she is compared to a comet that comes in the orbit of the earth around the sun. Her gradual fondness for Shane makes Jonathan even more bitter and jealous, as he tries to channel his emotion for Shane onto his study. What I find rather intriguing is the fact that, despite having Carrie as his girlfriend, Shane does not ignore Jonathan, but tries to engage him even more for fear of losing their friendship, which Shane deems as precious.

The ending is of course one of the most challenging parts of the film, as Leste Chen the director faces with the dilemma of Shane choosing either Jonathan or Carrie. However, Chen's decision to have the story stop at the point where the the development of the three characters remains indecisive has a highly emotional impact, as the audience becomes confused and wishes Shane to settle for one or the other. Personally, I like this kind of "unending" ending as it is both realistic and artistic at the same time -- artistic in the sense that life is artistic and that life is intensely ambiguous and fuzzy.

When the film finishes, I just sympathize with all three characters who emerge both sad and smitten with unfulfilled desire at the same time. Shane wants his friendship with Jonathan and his love for Carrie to last forever, but Jonathan cannot keep being friends with Shane because he does not want to get hurt from unrequited love. What he needs is love, not just friendship. This is reinforced by the fact that he repudiates and abhors Shane's successful attempt to rape him, knowing fully well that Shane does not want him sexually but that he does it so that Jonathan can be "friends" with him. Sex here does not mean love but power and oppression.

However, watching this film makes me wonder such complicated issues as love and friendship. Do we really have a clear boundary between the two? Is sex really one of the factors distinguishing between love and friendship? Of course, each person has their own answers to these.

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