Ah Jie returns to his hometown after several years, only to find that no one seems to recognize him any more, not even his own family, including his mother. As he is actually kicked out of his parents’ home, he ends up in Lao Huang’s noodle shop, another former acquaintance who does not seem to recognize him. However, when he tries to leave, Lao Huang stops him and tells him that he remembers who he is and that tomorrow he will take him to a man who will explain everything.
The next day goes according to plan, and Ah Jie ends up in a half completed block of flats, where he is to meet the former district chief, who is now homeless. When Ah Jie confronts him, he becomes defensive, and, furthermore, a murder occurs in the place they meet. Being a total stranger, Ah Jie is arrested for the murder and put in a kind of mental hospital, where he stays in a bed, bound and gagged. After that, a kind of trial takes place, held by his former friends and family, who sentence him to death.
Some years later, Ah Jie reappears in the town as if nothing happened, and starts hanging out with Lao Huang. At the same time, some murders start occurring.
Lim Kah-Wai directs and pens a very strange film (and very difficult to describe) that moves around the borders of art-house and experimental, a sense that is heightened even more by the surreal script, which focuses on the alienation of people in the first part, and revenge in the second. Furthermore, Lim portrays greed as a driving force that actually makes people act illogically, during the second part.
The same applies to the technical department, with the cinematographer Makin Fung Bing-Fai using black-and-white photography and a frame of a square that covers roughly three quarters of the screen in the first part, and color photography and full screen in the second. The first part, has a number of shots that portray a dystopian environment, particularity in the unfinished building, while the second focuses on “normal” images, of house interiors, restaurants and cafes. The subtle, and occasionally eerie music by Albert Yu, that occasionally, and particularly during the end picks up also fits the art-house standards.
The acting also moves in the same direction, as the first part is told by Ah Jie’s perspective and the second by Lao Huang’s, thus changing the actual protagonists. Massa Dazhong as the former does a great job of appearing utterly perplexed during the first part and disillusioned towards the second. Gouzi as Lao Huang is also quite good, as a man bent under the weight of his unsatisfying routine, in a psychological state that has even takes a toll on his physique.
“After all these Years” is a difficult film to watch, but is definitely worth a look due to its aesthetics, and as an effort to understand Lim Ka-Wai’s purpose with it.
“After all these Years” will be presented along with two other Lim Ka-Wai films (“Fly me to Minami” and “Magic and Loss” ) in Spectacle Theater, Brooklyn NY, from Friday, December 9 to Sunday, December 11. The director will be also present for Q&A after the screenings. For more information, here.