Watching “Murmur of the Hearts, 念念” is akin to a meditation sitting.
It requires intense concentration and willpower to stay with the screenplay. The slowness and long draws of placidity makes it easy for distractions to enter the mind. Audience fidgeting in their seats, checking their phones, whispering to their partners and yeah, me noticing all of above.
But when the mind stills and becomes centred, the breath syncs in cadence with the storyline and with each deep breath, you take in the beauty and sophistication of the plot.
The film follows the story of siblings Yu-mei (Isabella Leong, 梁洛施) and Yu-nan (Lawrence Ko, 柯宇纶) who became separated when their mother Jen (Angelica Lee, 李心洁) left home, as well as Yu-mei’s boyfriend Hsiang (Joseph Chang, 张孝全), a faltering boxer.
Each of them bears the burden of their childhood pains as they grapple with the struggles of their present-day lives.
But through fantastical exchanges with the ghosts of their resentments, they learn to make peace with the past and approach life with renewed joy.
~台北的天空 有我年輕的笑容~ [王芷蕾 - 台北的天空]
The setting of the film features extensively the picturesque sceneries of Taipei and Green Island 绿岛, an offshore island on the southeast coast of Taitung county. The island which was once used as a jail strikes as a metaphor for the emotional imprisonment experienced by the main characters.
On a totally different note, the mesmerising visuals makes me so want to visit Taiwan again!
One of my main motivations for watching the movie is the director Sylvia Chang, 张艾嘉, who is known for her 1999 romance hit “Tempting Heart, 心动” [主题曲: 林晓培 - 心动]. Lesser known especially to the younger generation is that Sylvia was also a celebrated singer with household songs like 爱的代价 [chords] and 童年 [chords].
In this movie, she showcases her trademark style which is best described by Claude Debussy’s classic quote: “Music is the space between the notes.”
Many scenes were stripped of non-essential lines and elaborate acting down to raw emotions. And it is the quietest scenes that knock the loudest on the doors of your heart, that evoke the strongest responses.
For me, there were two scenes that were particularly stirring.
The first was the post-outburst scene after Hsiang had shoved his coach (whom he deeply respected) and smashed a glass window when the latter confiscated his boxing permit. There were no elaborate lines of regret or emotionally charged apology. He quietly returned to the scene, went down on his knees before the coach and then proceeded to sweep up the glass debris. Sublime.
The other was the scene when 30-year-old Yu-nan had the heart-to-heart-talk with his youthful mother in one of the fantastical/ magical encounters. Although he was already an adult with sound emotional walls, you could see in his eyes that they crumble during the exchange, and he was reduced to the vulnerable boy that he once was.
Fancy a soul searching and meditative session? “Murmur of the Hearts, 念念” will open in cinemas on 23rd April.
Many thanks to Clover Films for the invitation to the movie première.