Kit Hung’s melancholic arthouse feature Soundless Wind Chime tells of the love affair between Ricky (Lu Yulai), a Chinese cha chaan teng delivery boy, and Pascal (Bernhard Bulling), a Swiss juggler/pickpocket, who dies all too suddenly. Through its intensely poetic imagery, set against a memorably atmospheric Nordic music track, the film follows Ricky on his (literally) soul-searching journey to Switzerland, where he chances upon a young man that uncannily resembles his dead lover. The story then comes full circle and returns to Ricky’s hometown of Beijing.
“I’ve been having a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend for years now, where we split our time between Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Chicago,” Hung says of the origins of his semi-autobiographical film. “Sometimes I think of him in the middle of the night; when I get up, he’s [often] asleep and when I go to sleep, he’d still be busy at work. Those situations made me feel that when he is not there physically… it is no difference than him being dead. It is like I’d fallen in love with a ghost – this was the basic inspiration for my film.”
And what a deeply personal film this is. While concrete details about his characters are mostly fictional, Hung’s sentiment to them is totally genuine. “The character settings mirror those of the real people in my surroundings,” says Hung. “Even though I don’t know any new immigrants from China, much less one doing delivery, the personalities, life attitudes and emotions of Ricky are all closely based on my friend Chet Lam. I’ve known Lam for years. We have many connections, and we inspire each other. This story was initially written for him.”
And the personal angle doesn’t stop there. Amid its extensive use of flashbacks, which account for the film’s occasionally indecipherable sequences, Soundless Wind Chime may be seen as an impressionistic meditation on the act of remembrance – although every little detail does privately find its way to the director’s heart. “This film was made after a friend of mine committed suicide, as well as the deaths of my Swiss boyfriend’s parents.” In fact, a scene featuring a solo violinist was shot in front of the tombstone of his partner’s parents, as a dedication.
“This film is about [the feeling of] missing something, of lacking something,” says Hung. “You find it hard to get used to the fact that someone you’ve been dearly attached to is now gone. You want him to still be here.” Reflecting on his film’s excessively elliptical structure, Hung says: “It is an interaction between [Ricky] the character, his memories, and his imagination. If you resist trying too hard to understand it in the traditional narrative sense, maybe you’ll get an even clearer picture of [the film].”
Soundless Wind Chime opens Thursday 23.