The ending

It's hard to say what the point of the film is...there are ideas and topoi/tropes (eg time, ritual, death and rebirth etc) worthy of long discussions, but the film itself feels...afloat, drifty, anchorless, especially in the ineffable ending. It transcendently breaks with the rest of the film, or assumes a transcendent position in it, by not showing or representing its 'point', the impossible, but by almost directly saying it. This is a diegetic moment or gesture that calls all the film's previous diegetic devices, indeed its entire diegesis or world, into question; it calls itself into question. It's also a 'meta' moment that negates any metacinematic limit priorly established, as we the viewer s realize the already slippage of any privileged viewing position: we're no longer 'above' the film, and thus cannot thematize it, or are rather thematized by it. You can say this is a surrealist legacy, but the film is firmly, desperately, grounded in practical, everyday existence.


There's an easier explanation than all the incoherent nonesense above...Tsai Ming-liang is being creative, like the finale to Hal Ashby's "Being There." It doesn't make sense, and that's why it's so poignant and astounding.


in response to the ending, i agree in saying that it does maintain a drifting and anchorless atmosphere, but i think it's interpretation shouldn't be categorized in leaving it's viewer with an obviously distinct finale, as say a period is in a sentence, or better yet as cliche blockbuster cinema is to the mainstream audience. anyone who's familiar with Ming-liang Tsai's work knows that he is very much the contrary as a filmmaker, in more ways than one i might add.

i think you put it best when you said that he "negates any metacinematic limit priorly established." at least i think that's what you meant. and that to me, i feel, is what Tsai "wants" to do. he's a selfish director who's intent is to portray cinema in a way that is desirable only in his eyes. and i mean that as a compliment, i just don't know what the dysphemism for selfish is. ;p

but the ending, in my opinion, pursues in living on beyond the film's limited length. respectfully Tsai dedicated this film to his father, as well as Kang-sheng Lee's, so i believe this film honors that, by continuing to commemorate their memory, rather than putting it past them. so this to me, was a perfect ending for the film.


I agree with you saying there's a continuation of memory outside the film, and that's what I was saying, that the 'ending' ruptures from the film, into the 'real world'. but this isn't done with verite or theater or anything formal like that, but a simple metaphor for the impossible, a direct gesture that is not mimetic (representable logically) but diegetic.



Mimesis created the illusory metaphor. Mimesis enabled the ending to transcend the film.

Tsai Ming Liang's films are expressly mimetic and minimally diegetic.


for someone who likes Tsai Ming-Liang your inability to expand your interpretative horizon is astounding (but not so poignant).

The comparison to Being There is only superficial, anyway, it being a heavy-handed, self-conscious clamorous recycling of cliches, whereas Time withholds, reserves, suspends much more.


i suppose & fear that you're more of the typical tsai fan - so full of yourself one hardly cares to read what you write, watching movies solely as intellectual porn. a mental masturbator. do you really think that puts him in a good light?


what an exhausting thread this is...I wasted my time on it because I just watched this beautiful film and wanted to read other's thoughts on it (something I now regret).

My two cents:

This movie requires only one thing to enjoy it: patience. There is no "action", no "drama" (per say), and hardly any dialogue. What you DO have, however, is a deliberately paced film that examines the simultaneous melancholy and absurdist humor in the every day happenings of three people (who are connected to each other in one form or other) and are experiencing different forms of loneliness and are attempting various ways to cope with it. It is humorous and heartbreaking at the same time and is as unique a film as one could hope to find. The story behind the deaths of the director's father and the lead actor's father only make it that much more poignant and touching. Not once was I bored (a testament to the director's totally mastery of his subject matter). There is no big dramatic surprise, no real "plot", nothing to figure out. It is simply a beautiful piece of film making that will stay with you long after the movie is done. Sadly, because of all the facts above, most people will be completely bored with this film.


Well put, robi1138-1.



The father's reappearance is predictable (Buddhist references throughout film, mother's obsession with facilitating her husband's impending return).

But what's not predictable, what's metacinematic, what's magic, is how the director used the "wheel of rebirth" return (father reincarnated in Paris) to express the point of the film: existential displacement.

The father returns existentially, but in the "wrong" place. He's existentially displaced. It's bad enough that we are displaced in our regular existence, but, alas, we are also fated to be displaced post-existence, the next world/the next existence a place/existence where the self loses itself.

And this is something we've known along, we already know we're lost in our known lives, and we sense we'll be lost in unknown post-existence. We don't know what awaits us in death, and chances are, whatever awaits us, we'll be just as lost in it as we are here, in our living lives, that is one of the things about dying we fear the most.

The director reminds us of this existential displacement during the last seconds of the film, leaving us just as mentally lost and surprised as the father. And we feel it physically, because the ferris wheel (symbolism...) in the background (and in the peripheral margin, the suitcase full of earthly possessions drifting away in water...) is clearly divided from the rest of the space on screen, emphasizing the sense of isolation and loneliness.

The combination of the father's existential displacement and the isolated gently revolving wheel is a startling reminder of how humankind is so utterly displaced and isolated, physically, mentally, and spiritually, how our urban space is also isolated and dispirited, and how time itself is isolated and dispirited (clocks: living by the clock, a clockwork orange, mind attuned to clock instead of life itself).

What continues to exist beyond the screen, what continues beyond the allocated time frame imposed upon viewers, what continues beyond the allocated time frame imposed upon earthly existence, is all the emptiness and fear and metaphysical connection to space-time that humankind has tried fervently to root out of its individual and collective consciousness.

The director has told us (director "thematizing" viewers), nice try, but nope, we're still displaced, forever displaced in the known and unknown places of existence, displaced even more so than we were since creation, perpetually displaced, the last cosmic laugh is on us.