May 23, 2024

San Sebastian premiere ‘A Journey in Spring’ takes on the nature of life, say debuting Taiwanese directors Tzu-Hui Peng and Ping-Wen Wang. 

“I have a very close relationship with my family. They ground me. Losing them is my deepest fear, but it’s birth and death, come and go,” admits Wang.

Peng, artist-turned-filmmaker, adds: “We can only learn how to cherish things after we experience regrets.”

Such melancholic takes echo their protagonist’s experience as well: an older man who lives with his wife somewhere in Taipei. When she passes away, he tries his best to ignore it – also by hiding her body in an old freezer. But when his estranged son finally returns home, with his new partner, Khim-Hok has to acknowledge her death.

Jason King, Kuei-Mei Yang, Wei-Hua Lan, Shu-Wei Chang, Chiasui Chen and Jack Kao act in the film, produced by Being Film and Art Co. 

“I never really thought about why he does it. I just tried to capture a human being,” says Wang, referring to the main character’s rather unusual move.

“In our life, most of our decisions are made unconsciously. Behind our actions, there is desire, fear, all these different emotions. I don’t pass any judgement here and I don’t show sympathy either. I just observe him through the camera, inviting the audience to do the same.” 

“What he does seems so extreme, but it comes from this gentle love for his wife. I wanted to look at his decision from a tender perspective,” adds Peng.

The idea to talk about life and family – or “a microcosm of different relationships,” says Peng – was a starting point for them both, as they set out to portray the affection of an older, bickering couple or painful estrangement between father and son. But emotions always came first. 

“l tried to capture all these subtle actions and reactions of a human being, and see parts of his soul showing in very ordinary moments,” notes Wang.  

Tzu-Hui Peng and Ping-Wen Wang
Courtesy of Tzu-Hui Peng and Ping-Wen Wang

In order to do that, they couldn’t hurry, also choosing to shoot the film in 16mm. Yosuke Kato and Waikin Sou served as DoPs. 

“You could say that through this film. I wanted to reflect the sense of time. I grew up in the center of Taiwan, where it’s all about efficiency and speed. I think we are going too fast sometimes. We just get lost,” says Peng.

It was a “profound” love for cinema that brought them together, they say. At the press conference at the Spanish fest, they also describe it as “fate.” 

“Tzu-Hui is an artist and she actually inspired me a lot. She cares about the spiritual side of the film. I used to film things I could see with my own eyes, but here, we tried to capture something invisible too. Although we are always fighting, I can’t wait to see the next film we are going to create together,” assures Wang. 

“There is fighting, but we can keep going forward because we are both pursuing the same goals,” explains Peng. 

“I’m very thankful to have a working partner. We can grow together. I have never had that experience before.” 

While Peng, a National Taiwan University of Arts graduate who is still “figuring out how to find balance between art and filmmaking” will focus on a ceramic exhibition in Taiwan next – “it allows me to be alone and focus on that moment when my fingertips touch the soil” – the duo is slowly pondering their new project, says her collaborator.

“I think it will be a love story.”

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