Eternal Summer (2006) 盛夏光年

Country: Taiwan
Language: Mandarin
Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: Leste Chen
Starring: Joseph Chang, Bryant Chang, Kate Yeung
Theme: LGBT Issues

Ratings: IMDB: 7.3/10

Film Festivals: N/A

Awards: 2006 Golden Horse Award: Best New Performer (Bryant Chang)

Nominations: 2006 Golden Horse Award: Best New Performer (Joseph Chang) / Best Supporting Actor (Joseph Chang)

 

Eternal Summer (2006) by Leste Chen is a gay-themed movie revolving around the complicated relationship of three high school students. Carrie (Kate Yeung), who loves Jonathan (Bryant Chang), discovers that he has actually been secretly in love with his best friend, Shane (Joseph Chang), ever since elementary school. Meanwhile, Shane falls for Carrie in a bizarre love triangle. The plot thickens as the relationship between the three become more complex and convoluted.

Matthijs (2010) claims that the film primarily centers on Taiwanese visual aesthetics and elements and it is not difficult to see why, through the numerous day scenes that incorporate nature through “vivid hues to blues and greens”. There are several landscape shots, such as green meadows and fields that do a good job in creating the film’s atmosphere and mood. It dives deep into the viewers’ hearts and paints a touching, melancholic picture especially when augmented by the soundtrack that is mainly made up of subdued piano music.

The film is very visually driven. The homosexual theme for instance is conveyed through the use of typical connotations such as the ear piercing on the right ear. The homosexuality-metro-sexuality conundrum is also explored, through the contemporary blurring of the lines of metro-sexuals and homosexuals, especially with the “pretty boy” culture that has been on the rise with Taiwanese, Japanese and South Korean pop. (Meteor Garden (2001) anyone?) Despite being a very subtle indication (15:00), it sets a very early tone for the show. Further, innuendoes such as extreme close physical proximity, everyday acts such as the ruffling of each other’s hair, sharing a drink and lines like “I played badly when you were gone” provide a clear indication that there is more to the relationship than that meets the eye.

The director has a penchant for using mirrors as a form of aesthetic treatment, and I cannot help but suggest that this could perhaps have a special underlying meaning. Mirrors reflect reality, only in an inverted manner. This is further seen in the sex scene between Jonathan and Carrie (19:00) that was framed within a mirror, as well as the slanted mirror scene at 25:12. Further, subtle nuances like a train emerging out of a tunnel could be said to suggest the act of coming out of the closet into the open. Erstwhile, the scene has Carrie and Jonathan captured traveling backwards rather than forwards, seated against the direction of movement of the train. This could represent a shift in dynamics in the burgeoning love triangle. In a separate scene (27:53), the dim lighting in the room where Carrie and Jonathan are studying, the only source of light comes from Shane’s bedroom when he is sleeping. Could this probably symbolize the source of light in his life? This is in stark contrast to the subsequent scene when he was with Carrie, as both their faces were shrouded in the shadows of darkness, suggesting despair of some sort.

Prison imagery at 30:42 feature window grilles, staircase railings and gates that are used to frame the characters. Could this symbolize entrapment in the present status of their relationship, and how it is difficult for them to move on without hurting the feelings of anybody?

The colors in the movie are generally cold and dreary at the start of the show, when Jonathan is with Shane or Carrie. But there is a notable change of colors midway through the movie when Carrie opens herself up to Shane. Here, the warm reddish hue is used, thus presenting the scene in a more humane light (41:00), as compared to the gloom previously. This contrast in lighting is further evident in a later scene with Shane and Jonathan having a conversation in the former’s bedroom before the earthquake occurred (52:40). Shane, with his emotional crisis was cast in cold, harsh, bluish lighting in contrast to Jonathan’s warm lighting. The warm light later disappears with the earthquake, and the ensuing scene is shrouded with the cold, harsh bluish light. Of all the scenes, the scene where Jonathan and Shane finally make out was the warmest in terms of the color scheme and palette. This time round, Carrie was the one cast under the cold, dreary lighting (1:19:00).

Through an analysis of all the various elements and stylistic treatments such as colors for instance, it is a pretty good way to round up the film by saying that Eternal Summer could really have been more provocative. Aside from the short and restrained bed scene between Shane and Jonathan, there isn’t much to be found either. Perhaps it is the intense hype that always surrounds the release of a homosexual movie – and Director Leste Chen opts to rather buck this trend by focusing on the essentials of the relationship that matter rather than resorting to sensationalist tactics. We see Shane and Jonathan more as human beings who need each other’s love. Underscoring the whole film is a very engaging soundtrack with some beautiful pictures, à la the landscape shots of green meadows and fields that are akin to beautiful scenic photography off a postcard. The atmosphere strikes your heart, and you cannot help but feel touched by the drama that pierces through your soul, the mood created with the natural charisma and chemistry of the actors.

References

Matthijs, N. (2010, January 6). Eternal Summer review. Retrieved on December 1, 2010, from http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2010/01/eternal-summer-review.php.

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