Image credit: mtime.com

Chen Kaige’s new movie Caught in the Web is surprisingly good! Wendy and I went to theater yesterday to watch the film. I am deeply shocked by the rare deep thoughts and humorous illustration of the subject. I’d highly recommend everyone to see the movie. It is simply one of the best one I saw in the last few years.

The Theme

The current Chinese society is at a very tricky time if you look at the long history of China. The conflicts from different groups of people, the conflicts between traditional value system to the newly created one, and the deep impact of Internet, new media, social, and mobile – everything is evolving in a much faster pace than any year I have experienced. The confusion of the new generations (well, every new generation is always confused, for few hundred years), the social tension, and understanding, all mixed together to orchestrate a pretty decent scene, for artist, novelist, writers, journalis, directors, and actors to catch, and to illustrate.

Disappointedly, the art circle does not pay the due attention to all the themes of China. Wendy and I went to see another movie, Painted Skin, the other day. Not a bad movie, but it just does not has any connection with the current society. I am not saying all movies needs to be a realistic reflection of the current stuff, but the percentage of the type of movie as Caught in the Web is lower than I think it should. For the director, Chen Kaige, I believe it is more valuable to take movies like this, via The Promise (无极) or Sacrificen (赵氏孤儿).

Besides looking at the reality, and took the courage to face the society, and pin-point the pain of many people, the movie went deep enough and mentioned wide enough aspect of the current Chinese society. Here are some of them I noticed.

Seeing is Believing

I believe this is the core part of the message is delivering. Opening Weibo, or web in general, the Netizen has never been so united and well orchestrated to rely love or hate of a real living person by one photo or video or short 140 description. The power of the web has been release to a new peak (Sir Tim Bernes Lee should be proud, and I just saw him in London Olympic Opening). However, the real story is never fully understood.

The story in the movie is a variation of another well-know story told by Convey in Seven Habits. A father sitting in the subway allowing his two kids to be noisy, and disturbing. Everyone thought he did wrongly, but no one knows his wife, the kids’ mother just passed away one hour ago, and he don’t know how to tell the kids.

By taking part of the story, and dramatically show it to the public, causes deep problems. Although not to give excuses to the wrong behavior, to understand what is behind the wrong behavior makes justice of the society. The movie is pushing everyone to think: What is the story behind the murder? what is the story behind this stealing? What is the story behind the good deed? The mechanism and curiosity of what is behind is widely lacking, and systematically prohibited and removed from the current media. But how about the me-media? What is the responsibility of the twitter or weibo poster’s responsibility besides showing one photo or video clip?

Privacy Concerns

I guess original title of the movie maybe 人肉搜索 (Human Flesh Search), and renamed to 搜索. It is about taking a lead and the crowd contribute, and finally expose all the private information of a person to the Internet. The moral and legal boundary of the action is still controversial, and blur.

The privacy of almost everyone involved (except few) was put online and many of them are not the fact. To expose someone’s privacy is the de factor penalty the netizen can do to a criminal offense, or victim, even without the need of sentence. Although it causes some positive impact considering the current legal system is broken, and it becomes a natural substitution, I believe the hope will still be building the legal system vesus the penalty of the many.

Although I don’t think it is categorically, constitutionally, absolutely wrong in any circumstance to expose one’s private information like national ID, I do believe it is something worth a lot of protection.

Others

The movie also covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • Neutrality of Media
  • Career challenge of an intern
  • PR un-written rules
  • Water Army
  • The other woman 小三
  • The general practice of plant on journalists
  • Discrimination
  • Private communication/recording protection
  • Money vs love dilemma
  • Career fighting in offices
  • Housing price, and hardship of normal people in cities
Many other things, and the moving part is, it is real, and in the characters, we can see the people around us. It brings our eyes to our own world to identify another Ye Lanqiu, or Chen Ruoxi.
Solute to Mr. Chen Kaige, and the team!