10 May 2010

Lust Caution

The latest film by Ang Lee, Lust Caution is simply not for faint-hearted viewers. Expect scenes of strong sexual nature and violence as this film involves a secret relationship between an influential politician and a spy who tries to coax out his secrets.

Stylised and dignified, the film does show the complex relationship between them, as the spy turns out to be very good, so good that she just falls in love (or at least sympathises) with the man she is supposed to betray. I believe the director does want to show the viewers the thin line between love and hate, between pure sex and love, and between intimacy and love. Indeed, what we see from the film is also how malleable the human mind is -- how one can force oneself to love or hate someone and also how one can fall victim to this process of self-hypnotism when one actually believes in one's own concoction.

Also, I believe there is this issue of difference between self and nationhood that the film tries to bring up. What should Wong Chia Chi do when she has a conflict of interest, when she plays the role of Mak Tai Tai and falls in love with the enemy of the State? Once the conflict at this level is played out, her choice at the end does portray that she puts herself before her country -- somewhat a romantic ending whereby a woman chooses to trust her enemy, simply because he shows her how much he has trusted her. The ending does beg some questions though. Does she love him simply because he gives her a jewel? Does it mean that she believes that love should be quantified in material terms in the age of wartime when you cannot believe in anything? Perhaps the director wants to say that even a hard-core resistance fighter is still very much human, having her own dreams, aspirations, and especially the need for love. Perhaps underneath the guise of a ruthless, cold fighter, there lies a fragile woman in need of love.

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