Han Dan : ‘NYAFF’ Review – A Walk into the Cultural Life of Taiwan
Directed by Huang Chao-Liang, Han Dan (寒單) is a film that speaks stories of redemption, revenge, tragedies, love, brotherhood, friendship and worship.
Han Dan is a story about a soon to be school-teacher Zheng-Kun (George Hu Yuwei) and the chronicles of tragedies that his one significant imprudent act brings. Zheng-Kun is a simple boy, madly in love with the girl next door, Li Wen-Xuan (Allison Lin).
Out of sheer jealousy and being bullied in the past, Zheng-Kun attempts to physically harm Xuan’s boyfriend Ming-Yi (Cheng Jen-Shuo) by lighting a pile of firecrackers with his lighter after the yearly Lantern Festival where Ming-yi plays the deity of wealth “Han Dan”. Xuan catches Zheng-Kun in the act. She runs towards Ming-Yi to warn him but she gets caught in the crossfire on the way and dies right there.
This incident costs Ming-Yi his hearing power and he also loses his ability to use his hand. This “accident” also makes Zheng-Kun feel guilty for the rest of his life as he is the only living person who knows it was no accident and that his own doing killed the love of his life. He can never forgive himself and takes the oath to play “Han Dan” in the Lantern Festival every year as the firecrackers burn his body parts and blisters his whole body. He seeks forgiveness, warmth and redemption for himself by doing so.
Just as the incident changes Zheng-Kun and sabotages his future plans and makes him a person full of avenge and robustness, it makes Ming-Yi a drug addict and criminal. Ming-Yi’s condition worsens as days pass by and leads to his grandmother committing suicide because of family issues. Zheng-Kun blames himself for his reckless act of the past year and takes in Ming-Yi. He helps Ming-Yi get sober from drugs.
As Ming-Yi comes back to his old form, he and Zheng-Kun become friends. They work together at a recycling business that Zheng-Kun started on his father’s land. Events lead eventually, fights happen, one thing leads to another; and slowly, they end up becoming “blood-brothers”. Throughout, Zheng-Kun still hates the old version of Ming-Yi and hates himself as well for what he has become.
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The truth uncovers at last. It takes time, years, but finally, Ming-Yi realizes that it is Zheng-Kun who was behind the event that changed all their lives. Ming-Yi becomes revengeful and betrays Zheng-Kun. A heart-broken Zheng-Kun plays Han Dan at the Lantern Festival that night. Before the event, Ming-Yi shows up and tells him that they will pursue their own paths from now on. The movie ends with Zheng-Kun bravely standing straight as Han Dan while the firecrackers explode centering him and Ming-Yi sitting in a train that is taking him to Taipei.
Han Dan is a walk into the cultural life of Taiwan. It is colorfully phenomenal. The visuals are breathtaking as the landscape shots exhibit the brilliance of camera work and direction of photography. The slow-motion effects used in the movie are well-placed and not stretched at all. The director makes sure to make the best use of every resource in hand. It undoubtedly is the best work of Huang Chao-Liang.