Through the Tunnel Darkly

Review by Lew Antonie

Taiwanese film director, Chin-Wei Chang, has proven himself time and again with live works such as Phoenix, Angela, Dolly, and Corn, but his work with animation displays a mastery that one might call revolutionary.

His animated film, The White Tunnel, as a film is superb. Heaped in hints of mythology and faith, we meet a group of sad people: a cab driver whose own sadness makes him invisible at best, abused usually; and his current fare, a family mourning the death of its matriarch.

At first glance, you would think they were covered in the expected misery of the occasion but as the film progresses we see that they have their own resentments and sadness, bringing the mother of this group to the breaking point. A fascinating breaking point indeed. The cabby, in the meantime, experiences a supernatural moment that — by the end of the film — implies that while maybe he is not a success her on this plane, he is “seen” by others … elsewhere.

This “Twilight Zone” style film (done in old TV black & white) is animated brilliantly. It is NOT cartoonish, nor does it try to be techno-innovative. The animation here is used to show us the two dimensional nature of the characters and the flat lives they all lead. Even the otherworldly figure that makes an entrance halfway through is offered up as a sad hazy portrait of what she once was. The animation is so sharp that you will find yourself blinking and remembering that the characters are not real.

Along with this deep narrative and flawless visuals is clever sound effects, echoing through the film. Car doors, kitchen noises, footsteps so echoy as to increase the loneliness of each character.

Spoiler: Director/Screenwriter Chang offers up a “happy” ending but more in the style of Elmer Rice’s expressionism. It’s not about the good profiting, it’s about the bad … not.

Chin-Wei Chang is a man of great vision. He is a student of human nature down to its hear and a filmmaker with brushstrokes worthy of a Da Vinci.

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