The fantastic realism of second generation Taiwan New Cinema

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the shift in the depiction of realism in Ta iwan New Cinema (TNC) after the lifting of martial law. It asks, how does this shift from the first to the second generation manifest itself stylistically and what is the significance? This question is brought forth from the deficiencies of research on rea lism of TNC and fantastic realism in cinema. To answer this question, I use both close analysis of key films of three second generation filmmakers and co rrelation between their formal features and Taiwan’s politico - socio - historical context. Overall I argue that all the three types of realisms use fantastic elements as strategies to break down the boundaries between the real and the unreal, reflecting their contemplation on the post - martial law Taiwan. Chang Tso-chi’s magical realism disturbs the continuity in time and/or space and his challenge of patriarchy closely echoes to Taiwan’s postcolonial context. His reconfiguration of a temporal - spatial pattern is not by completely wiping out the colonial legacy but to anticipate a new political subjectivity where multiple voices and heterogeneous elements can coexist harmoniously. Tsai Ming-liang’s uncanny realism transforms our ordinary reality into an eerie space. In his films, the sexual and ghostly elements within home or family spaces are strongly relevant to the Confucian patriarchy rooted in Taiwan’s society. Along with the Buddhist elements, they are used to break down barriers between people and to subvert the rigid social hierarchy. By uncanny realism, he anticipates to alleviate the everlasting social te nsion in the post - martial law era. Yee Chih-yen’s poetic realism displays a world permeating an atmosphere of going beyond reality. It reflects a desire to depart from TNC before 1987 and to create a new realist style correspondent to the post - martial law Taiwan. The repetition of lines and scenes shows a craving for communication as well as anxiety for Taiwan’s marginal position. By representing Taiwan as a modern, open and young polity, Yee aligns this country with its previous colonizers, such as America and Japan.
Date of Award1 Apr 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChris Berry (Supervisor) & Jinhee Choi (Supervisor)

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