Middletown Cinemas is located at 130 Dolson Ave, Middletown, NY 10940, NOV 04 – DEC 22. Eternal Spring (https://eternalspringfilm.com/) will be shown at the January Palm Springs International Film following its showing at the Middleton. For more information about the festival viewing, go to https://www.psfilmfest.org/.
Movie: Eternal Spring in Mandarin with English subtitles.
Director: Jason Loftus
Screenwriter: Jason Loftus
Animators: Carl Beauchemin and Alex Smith
Cast and narrator: Daxiong
Directed by Jason Loftus, a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, and four-time Canadian Screen Award nominee, ETERNAL SPRING is Jason’s follow-up feature film to his directorial debut ASK NO QUESTIONS, which premiered in competition at Slamdance in 2020.
The multiple award-winning film Eternal Spring features a soundtrack that draws you in, remaining throughout the movie as a presence and setting the dark tone of the entirety of the film. The mixed media film intermingles 3D animation and present-day footage to take you on a journey recounting a shared memory that took place twenty years ago. In March 2002, a Chinese state TV signal was hacked by members of the Falun Gong, a spiritual practice with thousands of followers banned in China. Loftus follows the narrator Daxiong, a comic book artist, as he interviews those involved with the hack or Falun Gong at the time. While interviewing, Daxiong shares his personal story, often with conflicting memories of his life events. The artist guides the viewers on an emotional journey while the interviewee’s stories take you on a parallel story and separate road. The film requires utmost attention as these two throng’s storytelling approaches can lead to confusion. While watching it, I wished Loftus had made two independent films instead. From the audio flow to interviews and animation, the viewers may need clarification, which is not provided. What story is being told? The two stories, first of a comic book artist and film animator and secondly of the group Falun Gong, jump from the memories of a TV raid that took place 20 years ago to Daxiong’s love for art, growth, and artistic skills. The animation, at times, is choppy, seemingly unfinished, and the lack of chronicle order keeps contributing to the narrative confusion, jumping from one story to another. The insight into the artist’s mind and his insight are fascinating but sometimes distracting from the filmmaker’s narrative. Watching his creative skills at work while the story unfolds feels like an intimate privilege but lacks cohesion from the main narration.
The main characters are assigned avatars throughout the film, as in old video games. As they move along the storyline, the character’s avatar pops up as a guide to help them follow along, which is not something I recall seeing in previous animations.
There is no denying that the film is cinematically captivating, visually stimulating, and tells a very dark and brutal tale. From the beginning of Eternal Spring, you sense it is a story that needs to be said. However, based on the shared media footage, you get a feeling that it is told from only one point of view. What is left out makes you question its message and its integrity. The movie combines comic book style with media footage, to mixed results, as the latter detaches the viewer from the tale. As hard as the film is to piece together, the story pulled from the interviews sensitizes us to the plight of the Falun Gong group. I wish another angle had been presented for a more rounded perspective.