While watching Happy Together, Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong drama that won him Best Director at Cannes in 1997, I was struck by the deep emptiness of the protagonist Fai, and the subtle ways Fai allows, and in some cases even encourages, his lover’s abusive behavior. It’s a brave film to explore the psychology underlying victimhood, and it takes a gifted director to allow reflection without sacrificing empathy.
This is, of course, dangerous territory. Victims are often blamed for being abused, and abusers are often excused for their behavior. It’s a delicate tightrope, which partly explains why it’s so rarely addressed in cinema with such brutal honesty. We go to movies to be entertained, not reminded of the darkest natures inside of ourselves, let alone the fragile boundaries we hope protect us from becoming victims – or abusers ourselves. Continue reading