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Original Title:

Hong Kong 2004

Horror, Thriller

Fruit Chan

Bai Ling
Miriam Yeung
Tony Leung Ka Fai

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Story: Li (Miriam Yeung) has been a popular actress, but slowly it becomes obvious that her days of youth are a past memory. It isn't only that there aren't any roles offered to her anymore, but her husband (Tony Leung Ka Fai), a successful businessman, oftentimes and pretty obviously has affairs with younger women.
On her search for a possibility to restore her former youthful look, Li stumbles across the cook Mei (Bai Ling). Mei seems to know the secret for eternal youth. Exclusively for her customers she cooks dumplings at her home, whose secret is their filling. Even when Li discovers the truth behind the awful filling of the dumplings, she continues to eat them, because it seems to work: Li starts to look a bit younger every day.

Review: There are oftentimes movies coming out of Asia that shock us, provoke us or cause disgust. There seems to be not a single subject that is taboo. That's exactly the case with "Dumplings". Some people will find this movie sick, twisted and disgusting and then there will be the ones who think, that it's a masterpiece. I have to put myself into the latter group, even though I can understand the first one. In fact, those who don't think of "Dumplings" as a disgusting and sick movie, should instantly make an appointment with their local psychatrist!

"Dumplings" is Hong Kong's contribution to the Horror-shortfilm-trilogy "Three Extremes", but is now available as an uncut version, approximately two times as long as its short verion. The story of the movie is quite simple and yet fascinating - in a sick and twisted way, natch. Actually it's all about the so called "Jiaozi". That's a very popular dish in China, which is rather easy to cook. You have some dumplings and fill them with whatever you want. According to your prefered taste, you can use meat, vegetables, fish etc. Very tasty. Yet, after having seen this movie your appetite for "Jiaozi" will be gone for a while. Cook Mei namely fills them with embryos...

It's pretty unlikely that you can rightfully blame me for spoiling, 'cause if you didn't already knew from several press reports what the movie is about, then you will get enlightened about the dumpling filling pretty much at the beginning of the movie. The horror merely focuses on this. The movie by all accounts has its shocking moments (and some really scary ones for sure), but the horror is a lot different from what we are used to see. It's not about ghosts, demons or other supernatural entities, but about the human mind. As it's the case with the dumplings, it's also with the characters - the inside is important. And so the horror is taking place exactly on this interior level.

The matchless, disturbing pictures, that nevertheless have an undeniable beauty, are of course the work of "camera-god" Christopher Doyle. Apart from him, it's director Fruit Chan, who is responsible for the extraordinary flair of the movie. The two manage the impossible to display the horror as something normal and lead the viewer into a world that is repulsive and strange, yet, on the other side feels familiar.

Some little effects are also implented quite well. For example, you do really have the feeling that Li is looking younger, after eating some of the dumplings and that's not only because of good make-up-effects. It's rather that Fruit Chan really knows how to play with the audience and their imagination.
The good soundtrack also adds to the success of the movie. At least as good are the sound effects. Hearing Li chewing, munching and gulping, while you exactly know what she is just eating there, will make you sick.

The main compliments go to the three main actors, who make the movie work the way it does. Absolutely brilliant is Bai Ling as Aunt Mei. With her joyfulness, kindness and the implicitness with which she prepares her dumplings she seems to be anything else than evil, which makes the whole thing even more complicated. There is no monster to fight, or at least not at a first glance.
To see Miriam Yeung in a movie like this is rare, since she is more popular for her roles in romantic-comedies. But she copes with her role perfectly. Tony Leung Ka Fai is of course an old stager and knows his stuff very well.

The psychological horror, that Fruit Chan creates with his work goes deep down and seems to be taken right out of the abyss of human soul - a nightmare. Yet, the movie lacks a surprising twist or some nice resolving. You always have the feeling that something will happen, but in fact it somehow doesn't. Those who made it until the end of the movie, will already have such a twisted brain, that the end is actually in no way surprising.

Chan's movie deals with the pressure of beauty contest and a society which demands this contest. The subject of abortion is also dealt with in a quite strange manner.
"Dumplings" is art and so it is allowed or even has to be strange. The shocking pictures of the movie will be burnt into your head for quite a while and you also might get a little bit twisted up there.
The movie isn't for everyone's taste, that is for sure, but it's worth trying!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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