The Knot - A love story or propaganda? By Ho Yi
Friday, Dec 01, 2006
Vivian Hsu, left, and Chen Kun play a young couple in love.

A controversial film from the very beginning, director Yin Li's (尹力) The Knot (雲水謠) hits a political raw nerve by presenting an epic love story set against the backdrop of Taiwan and China's modern history arguably interpreted from a Chinese point of view.

Billed as a Chinese-language Gone With the Wind, the film traverses nearly 60 years from 1947 to 2005 to tell of the everlasting love between a poor Taiwanese left-wing college student named Chen Qiushui and a girl called Wang Biyun from an affluent family in Taipei.

The pair's puppy love ends abruptly when Chen is forced to flee to China amid the political turmoil surrounding the 228 Incident. Cut off from any contact with his aging mother (played by Yang Kui-mei, 楊貴媚) and his sweetheart, Chen becomes a military doctor in the Korean War in the 1950s and meets a nurse named Wang Jindi. A strong-hearted woman who is determined to bag the man of her dreams, Wang follows Chen from the battlefield to Tibet. Moved by her love, he finally agrees to marriage.

Award-winning actress Li Bingbing brings to life a brave woman who is determined to pursue love.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, Wang shoulders the responsibility of caring for Chen's mother and vows to find her love no matter how long it takes.

As far as the narrative is concerned, the film echoes the story of Cold Mountain by creating an anachronistic world in which love is all that matters and the women are doomed to wait for the return of their men till the angel of death comes knocking. The sentimental score and melodramatic plot are designed to bring tears to the audiences' eyes but somehow fails to accomplish the goal despite the promising premise that focuses on personal tragedies in tumultuous times that resonate to this day.

Film Notes:
The Knot (雲水謠)

Directed by: Ying Li (尹力)

Starring: Chen Kun (陳坤) as Chen Qiushui, Vivian Hsu (徐若瑄) as Wang Biyun, Li Bingbing (李冰冰) as Wang Jindi, Yang Kui-mei (楊貴媚) as Hsu Fengniang

Taiwan release: Dec 01,2006

Language: In Mandarin with English subtitles

The melodrama's stars are China's top actors Chen Kun (陳坤) and Li Bingbing (李冰冰), who give eloquent performances in their fully developed characters and deliver genuinely touching moments. The Chinese director, however, failed to take full advantage of the movie's Taiwanese actors Yang Kui-mei and Kuei Ya-lei (歸亞蕾), who plays Wang at the sunset of her life, limiting the two actresses to one-dimensional roles.

Putting its conventional way of storytelling aside, the NT$100 million plus film was made with advanced digital technology that comes into its own during the 8-minute long opening scene in which various shots of 1940s Taiwan are seamlessly woven together to form a cultural landscape. The differences in color tones of scenes shot in the snow-capped Plateau of Tibet, Fujian Province, Beijing and Canada are digitally synchronized to give a smooth feel to the story.

The work's controversial nature, however, overshadows its cinematic slickness. Knot is based on a screenplay by Zhang Kehui (張克輝), vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (全國政協) and a Taiwanese expatriate who moved to China to study at the age of 20.

The Mainland Affairs Council (行政院大陸委員會) turned down the production crew's application to shot scenes in Taiwan for the reason that the film portrays a distorted view of the 228 Incident.

While Chinese martial art flicks and period dramas are internationally welcomed genres, The Knot proves that examining the recent history of Taiwan and China, no matter how personal and tuned-down, is still a potentially controversial exercise. Looking on the bright side, at least now the subject is not taboo in China and is open to debate, examination and reflection.