Directed by: #YiFengChang
Written by: #YiFengChang
A Taiwanese short film with a coming of age narrative, #filmmaker Yi-Feng Chang's Farewell to the Ark contains some sublime cinematography and editing but is tripped up by messy plotting and poor characters.
Yu-Chieh Cheng plays a young man called Jie who is in a bad place. Struggling to pay rent and being tormented at his place of work, the only solace he finds is in an online game where he gets to communicate with Shizuko (Angel Lee). However, as she teases him about getting her an expensive figurine from a local shop, Jie makes a decision that will affect more than just himself.
Told using a non-linear structure and text-message pop-up dialogue, there is a clunky feel to Farewell to the Ark that could have been avoided with a simpler, more traditional approach to storytelling. The audience is likely to feel some confusion as to the timeline of Jie’s situation and the multiple scenes involving supporting characters and seemingly unimportant story diversions definitely did not help. Throw into the mix Shizuko’s storyline regarding her dancing and Jie’s sister’s band and there is a lot going on but not in a coherent way. It was hard to fully care about these characters because their behaviour was not justified clearly by the storyline.
That being said, there is a visual artistry to Chang’s movie that is wonderful. Shots of busy urban walkways and different locations are interspersed with the more intimate character sequences, allowing an immersive atmosphere to build that is founded on the relationships between people, even if those relationships can often seem elusive. Music was also used to complement the bittersweet tone of the piece, allowing the themes of regret, isolation, and moving on brilliantly. The performances were also great, Chang gets a lot of the cast who are believable and engaging. It is just a shame that the plot lets them down slightly.
A lack of clarity in the storytelling made Farewell to the Ark hard to fully enjoy. Whilst the gorgeous cinematography and pleasing aesthetic are more than enough to satisfy short film fans, most will likely leave feeling unfulfilled by a plot that definitely had more to offer. Whilst we wait with bated breath to see what filmmaker Yi-Feng Chang does next in the indie circuit, because there is obvious potential there, we just hope the next project offers a focus on the strengths and a less-is-more approach to the plot structure.