Cast: Vicci Pan, Kang Jen Wu
Director: Chi Y. Lee
Official Trailer: Here
The definition of “self” is something that you have an abstract picture of in your mind, but significant life changes can drastically change that idea you thought you had been carrying your entire life. Beginning a new relationship can make you drastically redefine that picture of “self” for a short while, but things have a way of equalizing when the newness wears off. Your entire life’s context can be drastically overturned, and the world is suddenly exciting and new, but eventually you will find your way back “home”. Blowfish is a film that explores the context shift and the willful betrayal of one’s sense of self that we either allow or are incapable of recognizing when embarking on a new relationship. The beginning of a relationship is a time of heightened hormones, atypical behavior, and a reassessment and rediscovery of one’s self as you begin a new journey that will take you down some unexpected paths until you find a mixture of old self and new self that works in the new relationship dynamic and allows you to maintain the most important elements of your identity. You redefine the parameters of your identity slightly to accommodate this new person in your life. We might not recognize these changes, nor can we necessarily articulate a clear picture of what defines us, either internally or to someone else. It is this lack of introspective clarity that allows you to lose your sense of self as you are forced to contend with the demons that had been exorcised from your new partner’s last relationship. You embark on this redefinition of yourself willfully as the excitement and newness allows you to forget the loosely defined edges of what constitutes you, but despite all of the excitement of embarking on this new journey, you still feel the slight sting of self-betrayal when you look in the mirror and are forced to reconcile this new you with the one you’ve known for your entire life.
This is not a film steeped realistic situations, it is more concerned with the genuineness of the emotional content.
Blowfish understands these changes, but it also understands the stabilization of your personal identity that occurs when the raging hormones subside and you begin to come back to earth. When the dust settles and you begin to work your way back in to something that resembles a normal routine, you are closer to your old self but you have been forever changed in small ways that can eventually grow in to something more substantial. The magic happens when the two of you can make these changes together, and eventually both of you will create a new dynamic that can accommodate major differences in philosophies and personalities. You merely have to try and figure out if that person is worth that kind of commitment, and if they are capable of taking that journey with you. Unfortunately you have no way of knowing that with absolute certainty, and you do the best you can at figuring it out as the relationship matures and evolves.
Blowfish is a film of abstract metaphor employed through succinct visual imagery. Does the blow-fish in the film represent the emotional baggage that we carry with us in to each new relationship? Is this emotional baggage something that needs to be nurtured and sorted out before one can turn raw passion in to something more tangible and long-lasting? We follow a repressed young woman as she tries to figure this out for herself. She has few points of reference on this new journey, save for a conversation with a pet shop owner takes on vast depth as we quickly realize that our young and inexperienced female protagonist is asking for much more than pet advice when she talks to him about how to properly nurture a blow-fish. He seems to understand the metaphorical context of their conversation, and passes sanguine wisdom about how happiness and longevity are not necessarily as closely related as we might think. This information emboldens the girl to take risks, break out of her humdrum existence of social conformity and repression, and find a new aquarium that can accommodate her emotional baggage. She leaves her current relationship, which seemed to be borne more from convenience than any emotional connection. She sells her blow-fish in an online auction, and removes it from the sparse and small tank that her previous lover had thoughtlessly provided. We feel the lack of connection between the two from the very beginning, as the male is always left slightly out of focus, like peripheral noise polluting the background in this woman’s life.
As she goes to meet the winner of her online auction, we understand that there is more at stake than the sale of a fish. This is not a film steeped realistic situations, it is more concerned with the genuineness of the emotional content. The color pallet that had previously been drab, and seemed to absorb the characters in to its urban grays has been injected with new life, and brilliant greens light the frame with newness and excitement. She asks the young man a few questions about his knowledge of fish, but we sense that she is really talking about his previous relationships and his ability to commit. When she asks if she can put the fish in his aquarium herself, we immediately understand that the film is going to shift, much in the same way that our realities shift when we start a new relationship.
The concept of shifting identities is central to Blowfish, and this young woman must earn her identity by overcoming the emotional baggage that her new lover has brought to the table. She assumes the identity of Flora, the previous love interest of the man, and loses herself in the artifacts of a dead relationship that pollute the man’s house and entire existence. She must overcome these obstacles if she is ever going to turn their relationship in to something more substantial than raw sexuality. Flora’s influence on the man will eventually have to be eroded if this will ever happen, but each frame is polluted with a constant reminder of Flora’s presence. The man has also lost himself somewhere along the way, and the is only referred to as “Coach” in the film. He must also overcome the same obstacles as his new partner, and determine if she is worth making those sacrifices and changes for.
The concept of shifting identities is central to Blowfish, and this young woman must earn her identity by overcoming the emotional baggage that her new lover has brought to the table.
Blowfish is reductive in that it concentrates on this very specific acclimation and evolution that occurs at the beginning of new love. It’s compositions are purpose driven, and each visual element holds significance in this evolution. It exhibits raw sexuality in the way that a new relationship does, but that type of connection is superficial and must be allowed to grow in to something more substantial it is ever going to evolve in to a meaningful relationship driven by deep seated connections. Blowfish is a tragically underseen film, and it possesses a beauty and acumen about the nature of life that should not be missed. The behavior of the characters conforms to societal norms that may be slightly foreign to those outside of Taiwan, but the message is universal, and the delivery is adept and poetic.
[notification type=”star”]87/100 ~ GREAT. Blowfish is a tragically underseen film, and it possesses a beauty and acumen about the nature of life that should not be missed. The behavior of the characters conforms to societal norms that may be slightly foreign to those outside of Taiwan, but the message is universal, and the delivery is adept and poetic.