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Box-like Living in Hong Kong

A deadpan story interacts with the unique space of Hong Kong.

【What Day is Today】

▪ Director : Hoi Ting Yeung   楊凱婷 

▪ Composer : Hua Chun Fan 范華君

It contained minimal use of action, very little dialogue, but a large number of deep focus, long, still takes to capture the relationship between people and space.

 

Details of each scenes tell the story, such as the living room. There are left and right - two different worlds of computer with father and son. The father is playing mahjong while the son is playing online game ; and they are separated by a running television with nobody watching. Or with flat viewpoint, shooting people moving up and down escalators as general cargo transport and so on. People work in the office, or selling suitcases in the mall…

 

Storytelling through space, so as to invite the spectators experiencing the box-like living condition in Hong Kong, as well as the detached relationships in the ordinary, domestic everyday life. (Text by Hoi Ting Yeung).

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Artistic Direction

Less is More.

The original film has no score but the diegetic sounds only. Because the director was inspired by Swedish film director Roy Andersson and Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮), who both are known for their long take, absurdist comedy style and rarely using music. Therefore, the director hopes the score could follow this ‘less is more’ aesthetics, leaving more quite/empty space to make the audience reflect themselves.

So, based on the description above and several discussions with her, I realised there are 3 cores of this film: ‘box-like’ living condition, detached relationships, and the dark humour style. 

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Music Concept

'Epic of life' as the main theme.

Firstly, the ‘box-like’ living condition makes all the characters barely has any emotional expression on their faces—a very repressed state. So, in order to respond to the director’s concept, I used ‘epic choir’ to represent characters’ inner thoughts/emotions and screech to a halt when they leave one space to another. For instance, close the post office’s door at 3:05 (cue 3), zipped up the bag at 12:18 (cue 7), close door at 13:09 (cue 7). All of them symbolises how people keep bottling up their true thinking/feelings inside the ‘box’ of daily life.  

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Secondly, the detached relationships, including parent-child relationship (Cue 5), loneliness (Cue 6) and friendship (Cue 9). For example : a dinner without conversation between father and son but with TV broadcasting only. So, aiming to keep the TV sounds (Horse-racing broadcast) standing out, the composition here is minimalism—slow soundscape with male vox—to illustrate the melancholy parent-child relationship which is so common in nowadays society.

Director's favorite pick : Cue 6_Mother L’s dinner (独りぼっちのアイス)

Thirdly, the dark humour approach. Although the main theme ‘Epic of life’ is lonesome, full of repeated routine and inescapable boredom, the dark-humour approach adds bright colour on it that makes the ironic narrative clearer and more interesting. At Cue 4, I use woodwind and Guzheng to compose delightful music to suggest an expectation to travel, accompanied with Peruvian Panpipes which adds air and some reflexible breath.

Composer's favorite pick : Cue 8_Cruise10% discount! (旅前の退屈さ) + Cue 9_Maybe I'll miss you (寂しいかも)

When it comes to Cue 10, there are many dark-humour gags in this scene: the contrast between the happiness outside the room and the loneliness inside the room, the similarity between the character in red clothes and the red crab on TV, and the bizarre situation of the trip—single woman in twin room, the malfunction of the air-conditioner, etc.

 

So, I use half of Cue 4 for the first part when the character is confused about the air-conditioner. Then, I add new composition with the pizzicato of strings and percussion at 20:54 to enhance the atmosphere of black comedy.

Full Film

Lastly, I utilise the diegetic sounds to become part of composition in order to combine the scenes and the score more naturally, such as: Cue 1 (opening), Cue 3 and Cue 13. It’s worth to mentioned that at Cue 3, the door bell music is "For Elise”, one of Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular compositions; hence, I variated its motif right after the bell had rung (2:23). It illustrates how the characters are falling into a shallow trance while working. For people who are interested in the full soundtrack desciption, you can download it here.

The original film was shot in 2014, when young protesters occupied most the main streets in Hong Kong for the Umbrella Revolution (雨傘革命). If you can understand Cantonese, the broadcasting from the radio in the film was reporting about it. Interestingly enough, after the film scores were wrapped up in 2019 February, the outbreak of Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement (反對逃犯條例修訂草案運動, 反送中運動) unfortunately took place and had been lasting till early 2020. Waht a beautiful yet daunting coincidence. I heartedly appreciated all the genuine feedback, experience-sharing, and fresh idea-exchanging from Hoi Ting in this inspiring collaboration, which made this project more meaningful than usual :)

 

Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.