The Hole by Tsai Ming-liang or Crystallizing Utopia in Dystopia



In an absurdist atmosphere reminiscent of Samuel Beckett, in a movement of transgression from rough social reality to surreal spectacular dream, two neighbours, a man and a woman, refuse to leave their homes under an evacuation order by a city ravaged by a virus called “Taiwan Fever”. This article analyses the way the sensation of chaos in the city is depicted by the constant fragmentation of the cinematographic reality and the way water transforms this dystopian nightmare into a utopian dream. The article hypothesizes that this procedure takes place via a variety of alarming dissociations. For example: voices are dissociated from their bodies, television voices from their images, and water from its source. By establishing a wide range of fragmentary perceptions accentuated by visual and audio contrasts between dream and reality (such as the contrast between the dull colours of the surrounding environment with the bright colours evoked by a musical performance, and the contrast between the monotonous sound of never-ending rain with the vibrant songs of musical comedy), Tsai Ming-liang delivers to the spectator a multi-genre picture, in which the substance of water in the way imagined by Gaston Bachelard, transforms the dystopian reality of an abandoned city into a utopian dream.

Keywords: The Hole, Tsai Ming-Liang, virus, the end of millennium, science-fiction, urban spaces, Surrealism, Czlowiek Kamera, Samuel Beckett, Musical Comedy, water and dreams, Gaston Bachelard