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Amaranthine [Chen Jiexiao, Singapore/China, 2021]

A densely packed and highly meditative experimental short film, Amaranthine provides a strong commentary on the gentrification that is occurring not only in Hong Kong, but also in many other Asian cities. The story, while not structured upon any sort of conventional plot, follows a group of women all dressed in red, placed in areas around the city of Guangzhou. They move freely about the landscape while the people around them pay little to no attention to their jagged almost random movements.

A film such as this is deeply layered with many strong visual as well as audio elements providing much social commentary. To start, the word “amaranthine” from which the film derives its title, has roots from the Greek words amarantos, which means “immortal” or “unfading”, and anthos, meaning “flower”. These women that we see in the film become a visual representation of such immortal flowers, almost embodying an ethereal quality, as spirits caught in some kind of limbo where no one can see or interact with them. These characters are shown to be closely connected to the small bits of nature that are dotted sparsely around the city of Guangzhou.

The women in red

In addition to the stark, red colour (something that is seen to ward off evil in traditional Chinese mythology) that these spirits parade around in, there is a deep layer of the song featured prominently throughout the film. This would be the ‘Double Suicide’ from the opera, The Flower Princess, wherein Princess Changping and her lover Shixian marry to then commit suicide in order to create peace in the country. Of course, this is a fraction of the entire story but it points to some of the many questions this film is asking: Are the people being asked to sacrifice their livelihood for the sake of technological expansion? Is the stark change of a cultural identity one to be taken lightly?

While the film does not provide these answers, it brings many deep-seated issues to the surface in a bold way. This is not merely a reflective film but one that dares to challenge traditional viewpoints, hoping to motivate its audience to bring about change.


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