Cine du Monde
Re-Cycle is the latest UK release from Hong-Kong based twins and directing duo The Pang Brothers. Probably best known for their breakout movie, Thai crime thriller Bangkok Dangerous, or their 2002 horror film The Eye, The Pangs subsequent career has leant heavily on the Asian horror genre but they’ve since failed to reach the same level of success as they enjoyed with The Eye. 2006’s Re-Cycle was something of a departure from their work up to that point, as although it begins along a very traditional Asian horror model it quickly abandons this framework in favour of becoming an intense, psychological urban fantasy. Luckily The Pangs’ keen eye for visual storytelling mean that they are ideally suited to this genre.
Ting-Yin is novelist whose latest book has become a publishing sensation all over Asia, the film adaptation of which is just about to open. Her slightly over-enthusiastic agent has already announced the title of her next book - Re-Cycle, which rather than the romantic theme of her previous work will focus on the supernatural. However, seeing all the pre-publicity for her new book before it’s even really gotten off the ground has given Ting-Yin a serious case of writer’s block. Throwing another spanner in the works, an old boyfriend who inspired the main lead in her love stories has returned from overseas hoping to pick up where they left off and conjuring up a whole host of ambivalent emotions in Ting-Yin. All this has conspired to make life less pleasant than you’d expect when your best selling book has just been turned into a hugely anticipated film and if that wasn’t all, strange shadows and mysterious phone calls are beginning to make Tin-Yin fear for her safety. She might think it was all in her mind if it weren’t for the long black hairs that keep appearing around the flat.
So far, so sub J-Horror. However, here’s where things kick up a gear as Ting-Yin finds herself unexpectedly entering a sort of fantasy world populated by twitching corpses, masked children and zombies with incredibly long necks. Accompanied only by a little girl and an old man giving occasional advice, Ting-Yin must travel through this crumbling city of the discarded and battle all its demons if she is find ‘The Transit’ and get home.
What The Pang Brothers have created is a Pirandellian meta-discourse on the nature of creation and how all those things you thought you’d abandoned might still be lurking around in your subconscious waiting to trip you up. The world that they’ve created to consist only of unwanted things is made of such striking visuals that it’s frequently breathtaking. The film does feature a fair amount of CGI but unusually for a film of this type it’s actually fairly well done and used with exceptional control. The nightmarish surreality of the Land of Discarded Things is the perfect reflection of the character’s psyche at this time of personal crisis.
There’s no point denying however that Re-Cycled is an exercise in visual storytelling and as such is very light on traditional, dialogue driven narrative. If you’re the sort of person who prefers a very definite and linear plot line then Re-Cycled is likely to disappoint. Likewise, if you’re coming to this film as a fan of The Pang Brothers’ work in the horror genre then it’s worth noting that this film is being mis-sold as a horror movie. Although it features some incredibly dark imagery and some conventional Asian horror scares towards the beginning, I couldn’t describe this film as being frightening in any way. It’s really much more of a dark, psychological fantasy film than something that belongs in the Asian horror section. I would also note that the tagline ‘The Matrix meets Inception’ is extremely unhelpful as Re-Cycled bears very little relation to either of those films and calling them into comparison in that way is likely only to frustrate and disappoint the potential audience it seeks to attract.
Re-Cycle isn’t perfect - it has some problems with narrative and perhaps the final resolution will disappoint some viewers who find it too much like a typical horror film ending, but for the most part this is an tremendously impressive fantasy film filled with some truly beautiful imagery. To my mind it’s a shame we don’t see more films like this that allow their creators to really indulge their creative instincts in exploring all the facets of the human psyche. Re-Cycle might not be the most profound film you’ve ever seen but its sheer artistry marks it out as a definite must see.
Cantonese with optional English subtitles, CG Rendering Comparisons, Making Of feature, Deleted Scenes, Premiere, Cast & Crew Q&A, Trailer.