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Hong Kong 2007

Drama, Romance

Raymond Yip Wai Man

Alan Kuo Yau Lun
Miki Yeung
Deep Ng Ho Hong
Po Po
Jack Kao
Sydney Yim
Berg Ng

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Story: Nana (Miki Yeung) has lost her memory. The only thing she can remember is Fei (Alan Kuo), who is supposed to be waiting for her on a basketball field. She knows that she can find Fei in "Bystreet", a place you go to when you want to withdraw from the outside world. However, once there, there is no way back. Nana is lead to "Bystreet" by King (Deep Ng). Actually, he is Nana's boyfriend, but she can't remember him anymore.
Arriving in "Bystreet" Nana in fact finds Fei, but he is already looking for comfort in PS (Po Po), a woman who knows of Fei since he was in the news. This is because Fei tried to take revenge on a drug lord in the past, who is responsible for his mother getting the death penalty for smuggling drugs. During his failed attempt he lost an eye, though. Since then he seeks shelter in the Holy Virgin and "Bystreet". But with Nana's appearance old memories re-emerge. Fei now knows that there is still a task lying ahead of him, but neither him nor Nana or anyone else can leave "Bystreet"...

Review: "Fate" is odd from the beginning to the end, and we never know where to put it. This already starts with the TV-look which is every now and then washed away by some appealing pictures and at other times by pictures that seem like from an art-house movie. In the end, though, it remains a matter of taste if there is something you will get from "Fate". This unusual HK-flick surely isn't something for everyone. Also, sadly the movie often proves to be quite a mixed bag. There are some ideas and realizations of them, that you have to give some credit - the small comic insertions are one example - but more often than not the realization of such ideas is lacking, or there are simply some scenes that are not easy to comprehend. Which all in all deprives the movie of its magic concerning the abstract and maybe even metaphor-like story. What to think of "Fate"? I also don't know exactly, yet you won't regret watching the movie, if you are willing to experience experimental HK-cinema.

The plot of "Fate" is a bit diffuse, but when you finally got used to the narrational mechanisms, you'll get along with it surprisingly well. This is a drama, which centers around the disorientation of teenagers in a world without perspective, and it does so in an abstract manner. A place like Bystreet suddenly becomes a place we long for, even though this seems to be a quite depressing and dark place of melancholy. Oftentimes the thought comes up that this might in fact be hell, but then as the film progresses we get to understand that for teenagers the outside world is actually hell. So Bystreet is a place they can retreat to, as if they were retreating into their own shell. The fog, that is everywhere when going to Bystreet is most likely the visualisation of disorientation and powerlessness of the teenagers in the real world. There are more possibilities to define Bystreet, yet this free choice of possibilities never evokes feelings of frustration in the viewer.

The world which the four teenagers of this story are part of isn't much different from a dream. The lopsided camera always makes us aware that we are actually looking at a world disconnected from reality. The narrow and dirty lanes of Bystreet have a depressing and attritional influence on the teenagers, and unfortunately on the viewer, also. It truely takes some time until you can dive into this world. Luckily, the movie is told with a lot of flashbacks, so that we also get to see something of a more "friendly" world, resp. past, even if this is to be understood as a provocative allegation. Ultimately, Bystreet maybe is build of the bad experience you gain in the real world. But then again, why would you withdraw to such a place? The fact of the matter is, that this is a place in the world in which "others" leave our four teenagers alone. At the same time it seems to be a place for those for whom society doesn't care for anymore, anyway.

Apart from the flashbacks, that entangles us into a story of revenge, betrayal and love, in which, of course, our four teenagers play the main leads, there are also some other interesting narrative techniques. The story for expample is divided into different chapters and sometimes is told in unusual, but interesting and fairy-tale-like comic pictures. Metaphor-like Nana tells us about her story with Fei and his past within the film, with what she totally blurs the line between realiy and dream/illusion. Furthermore, this way the producers succeed in making the film feel not too depressing in its tone. This is especially the case towards the end, which actually can hit the right notes with its motive of hope. Even though just some minutes before we thought that we had to leave the movie with a dissatisfied feeling. It's just a pity, that the emotions can't always be conveyed the way they were supposed to, since the editing and the realization oftentimes looks a bit bumpy. Also the sad synthesizer music suddenly starting everytime the mood becomes more sorrowful seems a bit out of place, even though it more often than not backs up the atmosphere quite well.

However, there are also some moments that you can't forgive the film, e.g. some scenes that serve no purpose and actually just look dumb, like the angry mob who runs after the teenagers every now and then, or the "ghost", who hinders everyone from leaving Bystreet by killing them. "Fate" feels like a dream, and oftentimes like a nightmare, too, which induces strange feelings coming up. If it weren't for the ray of hope called love that is apparant until the very end of the film, "Fate" may have become a movie that you could hardly be able to endure. It's just the question if director Raymond Yip, who also worked on "The Warlords", deserves some serious words of credit for delivering something "special", or if we are supposed to be angry about the sometimes seemingly cheap production values and the initial depressing atmosphere, so that we should write an enraged letter to producer Andrew Lau ("Infernal Affairs"). Anyway, "Fate" is a movie of a different nature than what you have seen before. You should watch it only after careful consideration, but if you do you should do so with some acknowledgement - despite the flaws - for the well-done ending, and respect the movie as a whole for what it is.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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