Was just going through my movie collection the other day as my nights are getting boring with nothing to keep an eye out on. I basically now only have Nogi and Keyaki shows to watch weekly then it’s dead silence! Nothing is enticing on Western TV other than that new Star Trek show (Michelle Yeoh is always to die for but alas, she is already dead by episode 2 thus no reason to keep watching) so I am very bored and so I decided to go through my collection starting with movies!
I settled on trying out those old ones, in all their AVI/DivX goodness (ah the old days) and two movies reminded me of how good a movie can hit you in the gut no matter how many times you watch it. The Twin Bracelets is one of the two the other being the 2009 Malaysian movie The Convert!
Both of these movies have things in common, things I put a movie in my favourites category. These two things among all that these two movie have in particular are LGBT (More L than G but I like both) and Social Commentary. By Social Commentary I do not mean anything and anything that simulates the current world we live in. I am talking about movie that take on the ‘issues’ of the current society of the country of origin and better yet, if out protagonist overcomes said issues, finds a solution to a particular issues that concerns them, and even if that solution is not the best one, as long as the protag escapes or finds an alternate to the status quo, then that elevates the FEELs and the level of admiration I have for the movie!
Unlike most people who seek escapism of the wrong kind, I love these movies and seek them out not to escape within the fantasy that can never be real, a fantasy from which you will soon wake up once the movie is over but rather, I seek guidance and the hope and confidence to find my way out of these issues on my own, in reality. The fact that these characters go through these same issues and come out on top, some times, or sometimes fail to find solace, a failure that makes me not give up but rather to try harder and not end up like out characters (in the case where they are negatively affected and fail to find a good solution), these reasons make me love these types of movies dearly!
Now you all know why I am a Zack Snyder fan and why BvS dethroned The Dark Knight as my favourite non-lgbt movie! People shat on him and now look at America. It’s like the man is a prophet or something!
Anyway, back to the point at hand (even though the paragraph above is a point at hand too), The Twin bracelets and The Convert reduced me to a wet mess once again when ire-watched these two movies because our main characters and their Cos are victims of their respective societies and it hurts even more when the issue is larger than life and there is no solution but seeing them at least try to change things, that right there is what feels my heart with life!
Starting with The Twin Bracelets (yes, you know what this means for The Convert), before anyone even decides to bring it up, yes, this is a lesbian movie! There is a whole controversial thing about all Non-Chinese Reviewers categorising this movie when it came out as primarily a lesbian movie! But is a simplification! The Twin Bracelets is much larger than that! This movie was talking so many topics some even got lost in translation but you will find great links to great articles (if they are still available since this movie came out all the way back in 1991) about this movie on Wikipedia!
The take away here is that this movie won LGBT awards in the film festivals it was shown in back then and all Westerners, even Taiwanese and Hong Kong viewers were all convinced that this was a lesbian movie first and foremost. Just think of the awards The Handmaiden won last year! Yeah, that was the same for this movie back then, even though there was no kissing, no actual sex, no blatant yuri moments!
So to you all who think that yuri is all about the physical sexualising, this movie should give you a hard reality slap in the face! Seriously, watching this movie now I wouldn’t be surprised of more than 80% of the audience think of this as not being LGBT at all!
But you know me! Movies like this are my kinds of tea! It’s in the text, AKA subtext, AKA between the lines where the magic is hidden that make he feel like I am flying compared to spoon-feeding yuri movies! There is of course exceptions – The Handmaiden, duh!
The twin Bracelets bravely tackles almost all the issues in South Western China back then (really, I think some are still there today) without pandering and sugar-coating and things are kept as real as possible, even as this is a film and thus partly fiction and thus should have that suspension of disbelief to pander to governments but this movie was unapologetic. Really, it was more like an Indie movie and those are the best at this kind of art!
Actually you know what is pretty funny? The LGBT side of things was the less serious of all the issues touched upon. The most important and front runner was Feminism! Within that sprang all the other issues like Marriage, Social Order, Traditions, Cultures, Companionship and Freedom of Expression.
Our main protagonist Hui-hua struggled, battled, won some and lost to many of these issues! Actually can it be considered a loss in the end or did she actually win? Sure to herself maybe she felt like she lost but her actions might have, must have had a greater impact than the movie had time to show. The ending with her abandoned home speaks great volumes!
Yes, Hui-hua died but please, I implore you to not think of this as one of the ‘Bury Ur Gays’ tropes! This movie is beyond that! Hui-hua’s death is one of the very few that I take to heart and have no ill feelings towards. It has nothing to do with the fact that it was well presented! It was almost even fore-shadowed, actually many things in the latter part of the movie had been fore-shadowed earlier on and I will mention this after the jump with the caps.
Our supporting girl is Xiu – the dumb as a rock but as compassionate as an Angel who pledged an eternity of Sisterhood marriage to Hui-hua to live and die together, never to betray one another and to die when the other has been caught being unfaithful. Meanwhile Hui-hua is the most passionate girl you in the whole world within this movie. At the same time she is the most fragile and is only strong because of her bond with Xiu. Without Xiu Hui-hua is nothing! Her passion to fight the norm is in part because of and for Xiu so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to tell you what happens when Xiu breaks their pledge, their promise before their great Goddess.
What makes this movie even more brilliant is the fact that you can’t blame Xiu! She meant that vow they made, she had no say in the marriage and unlike the passionate Hui-hua, she couldn’t go against tradition of the arranged marriage after literally every single girls they know in the past, in their whole lives has done what they all do! Then there is the living evidence of what is in store for those who disobey even without wanting to, without intending to in Hui-hua’s step sister who is constantly beaten by her husband because she can’t perform her duties due to her sickness. Like, she can’t help it, she was born with a condition but the ass kept beating her that I was more surprised she actually lived to the end of the movie!
The man Hui-hua married just because also beat her and had actually married her more for the money than anything else but since it was out of jealousy and the conditions proving what Hui-hua thought of the stupid idea of arranged marriages, she dumped his ass, even though he demanded a huge sum in return. Thank the Lord Hui-hua’s step sister was super rich that she gave her all her money so she could get that divorce.
And it was not just her that Hui-hua change with her passion. Her own mother was also changed, somewhat, most definitely anyway I am sure she was after Hui-hua killed herself but the issue was that despite being the smartest in school, her mother stopped her going farther and put her hopes in Hui-hua’s brother despite the fact that he was dump and failed many times where she succeeded! only because men had a future outside their homes!
The other person she changed was interestingly Xiu’s husband. Having gotten to know how Hui-hua was against the traditions, how she went after her own feelings, dreams and heart, he finally broke the curse and took Xiu far away from this dreaded place to a better life.
So, even as her own hopes and dreams were rendered hopeless, Hui-hua still changed other people and helped them not only live their hopes and dreams but to have one in the first place! I am sure there is a word for people like Hui-hua…I just can’t put my finger on it!
But of course the most important person that she changed was Xiu herself. A girl that had no confidence, no will of her own, well, she had a will but you know what I mean, by the end of the movie she was changed! She made her own decision, a far cry from when she couldn’t even give a single opinion before! And back to her not being at blame for what happened, she really did not want to get married! In fact, in the beginning she was the more passionate about the two living together and dying together and the one that got jealous when Hui-hua’s attention was taken by somebody, heh, even kids.
When she married she even wrapped impossible number of belts around herself just so her husband wouldn’t try to have her because “She is Hui-hua’s”. But in a turn of events, Xiu’s husband turned out to be unlike the men we have seen so far in the movie. He is one of the good ones. He genuinely is a gentleman and cares for Xiu. Xius can’t help by fall for him, an outcome that Hui-hua actually feared would happen. You will see in the caps where she feared that even though Xiu promised to not get married Hui-hua feared that she would. And in being married she also feared that Xiu would fall in love. And in doing so that she would leave her here, alone and forget about her.
Xiu of course denied all this and even swore to their Goddess that would she ever forget about Hui-hua, that the Goddess should strike her down to her death!
This all of course came to pass as Hui-hua feared! Xiu did not want to get married but she did. Having been given confidence by Hui-hua’s passion, Xiu’s husband decided to leave the life of cycle in their village and take Xiu with her. All these came to pass. I guess we should be glad that at least Xiu did not forget about Hui-hua because she did not die and proved by her coming back to Hui-hua’s home at the end of movie!
To drive the FEELs home even harder, as they walk to the station Xiu suddenly gets a chill. She becomes very afraid and she voices this to Hui-hua who wonders what Xiu could possibly be afraid of. But Xiu doesn’t know, it is only a feeling that suddenly crept up on her and she says as such.
Their bond was so strong that she felt the impending fate of Hui-hua’s on a spiritual level. Now that I know what is going to happen this can be seen as fore-shadowing for Hui-hua’s fate too. And it is not a lie. You can see the fear on Xiu’s face as she turns and looks back to Hui-hua.
But Hui-hua’s fate was already decided. The only way to save her would have been by Xiu deciding to stay behind with her and also be together forever, as man and wife for real. But that was already not a possibility. They were no longer ‘just the two of them’. Xiu was pregnant! Things were already set in stone.
Hui-hua was ready to kill Xiu and herself as per their vows. They promised to die together or live together forever but Xiu had broken that vow and thus Hui-hua was ready to see their vows through to their Goddess. But then she learns that Xiu is pregnant and you could see a cloud passing over Hui-hua’s very soul! It was all lost. The happiness on Xiu’s face, she couldn’t take that away. Her fears had come to pass, Xiu was lost to her forever, in this life! At that moment I believe it with my soul that Hui-hua decided her fate.
All she was, was because of Xiu. Xiu was her life. Xiu gave her the drive to go on. We clearly saw Hui-hua’s vulnerable state and how she draws strength from Xiu. God, this reminds me of Superman drawing strength from the people he loves and love him to keep on fighting and saving the world that shuns him anyway even as it doesn’t deserve being saved. It goes to show that all you need is one person to believe in you, one person to lean on to do the impossible.
Hui-hua lost that person but she did not succumb to her demons and give up the fight! She refused to cave in and be just what society intended, to give up and be just like everyone else! Hell, no one even knew what the word ‘divorce’ meant when she mentioned it! That’s how far that world is! Despite being married the wives only saw their husbands three times a year. It was almost like that village was a prison for women and children! Only men had the privilege to leave while the wives stayed behind, missing their husbands who were doing Lord knows what other than finishing out there!
It was madness and hui-hua was not having no of that. But her death was much more than running away or making a statement. She was also fulfilling her vows. She vowed to live with Xiu forever but could not fulfil that promise. Death was their punishment for breaking their vows and she took her punishment. Like I said also Xiu was her life force, without her Hui-hua basically lost her very soul and will.
Speaking of the death and its presentation, it was almost like a wedding! It was like Hui-hua was getting ready for her wedding in the next life to Xiu once more – “wish we could vow to be man and wife in our next life”. Then there is the choice of attire! First of course we talk about The Twin Bracelets – the tokens of our dear title. Hui-hua had them on and they made sure you saw her put them on as she dressed herself for her ‘wedding’. The bracelets that “are our tokens, me in you, you in me. Goddess Mazu as our witness. You live in my heart forever” – Hui-hua’s dying message to Xiu.
Like, talk about FEELs!
Then there is the choice of dress! Hui-hua had on Xiu’s black dress that she wore on her own wedding! Like that is poetic cinema right there if I ever saw one! Hell, she even had her hair done the same way that Xiu used to wear it in those two rings! Then the way she was filmed walking to the sea as if she was walking to the gates of altar or the gates of heaven themselves and I so did not mean that as a pun!
But of course while I would like to think that this death was only for the movie it was not as such. At the time when the writer did research for the movie, she found that there were a large number of suicide between women in that area of china and it was of course tied to the issues of society at the time so it plays a bit on the outside trying to get the message out there!
I am forever thankful thus for this movie not making Hui-hua’s death such a simple device which would have definitely made it part of the trope!
Anyway, this movie is old and kind of hard to get so I did some winking at the bottom after the caps. With that said, I will be seeing you…