It’s a new year and I’m going to inaugurate my first blog feature: Films About Fiction. The writing process is probably one of the least interesting things to watch, right up there with doing dishes, so why are there so many motion pictures that feature author protagonists? That’s what we’ll try to find out. And the first, and probably worst, flick I am choosing (completely randomly) to explore this with is Re-Cycle (2006), by the Pang Brothers.
This Hong Kong horror fantasy is about a young woman writer under pressure to follow up her successful trilogy of tragic romance novels. Being a genre film, she’s super cute, and she’s decided to write about ghosts! Cue spooky music.
“They say writing about spirits brings them to life,” her friend warns.
Sure enough, as soon as she gets to work, strange things start to happen. It’s almost as though the characters she’s creating, starting with a long-haired, oddly lanky female protagonist with “a strong will to live,” are coming to life. In one of my favorite moments, the pieces of scrunched up paper in her waste paper basket (these things are ubiquitous in films about writers) even start coming to life and crawling around the floor, getting her to reconsider drafts that she’s thrown out.
Soon the writing is taking over; she can’t delete what she wants to delete, and she finds herself acting out the things that she writes. Then the spirits reveal themselves, and she crosses over into a “lost world of abandoned things.”
Apparently, all the thoughts that writers have and then scrunch up and throw into waste paper baskets don’t go away, instead they end up in this other world as living breathing entities, who have to get along with everything else that has ever been thrown out: toys, deceased relatives, aborted fetuses. So, you’ve got zombies and stuffed animals running around and well, pretty much everything else, apparently even half-assed architecture, all squished together, and broken, in a realm built mostly from the motifs of your typical mythological underworld.
And, for no reason at all, parts of the world occasionally disintegrate the way they do when they’re eaten up by the Nothing in of The Neverending Story (an important work of metafictional fantasy I promise to discuss at length later). What this disintegration might mean is never explored, because the movie is more about running away from scary things rather than considering the implications of them. It’s also, it turns out at the end, a sublimated love story.
The protagonist, see, was abandoned by her lover and, well, you can put the rest together, it doesn’t really tell us much about fiction. Except to say you shouldn’t give up, not on yourself or on your ideas. Fiction is a lot of work, requires many rewrites and often gets neglected entirely by audiences. But fiction also has important stories to tell. And they can be as real in their way as the memories of living people who have passed away.
Was Gwai wik any good? That’s up to someone else to tell you; I’m not writing film reviews on this blog, just exploring some implications.