Based on the old Chinese folklore, “White Snake” is an animated film which serves as a prequel to the original narrative of Legend of the White Snake. The film is the fourth feature released by Light Chaser Animation and it has been selected for this year’s New York Indian Film Festival. It is the directorial debut of Amp Wong and Zhao Ji and the gorgeous, lush imagery makes the ride worthwhile.
The tale is primarily about a romance between Xiao Bai and Ah Xuan, who belong to two different worlds. Xiao Bai is a white snake, who, as a result of an accident, ends up with no recollection of the past, in the village of snake-catchers, who’re naturally their rivals. Taking up human form, she tries to become a part of this community while trying to recover her lost memory. Meanwhile, she meets Ah Xuan who’s naively doing his job of catching snakes. It doesn’t take much time for them to form a bond with one another. Their bond slowly turns into a deeper romance which creates a conflict in the supposed balance between these two worlds.
Eventually, they come across the third vital character to the story, the green snake- Xiao King. Being her sister, she tries to make her conscious of her demonic powers that were non-existent for this while. The only signal connecting her to this reality was a hairpin that shows her the possibilities in the process. This realization leads her into a conundrum of choosing one of these realities presented to her. On one hand, she has caring Ah Xuan, who’s much dear to her and who would go to any lengths to be with her; whereas, on the other side, there was her actual identity calling her to reminisce over the past she had forgotten.
Throughout its narrative, the film tackles with the issue of identity and what defines it. Beyond what the world assigns us to believe in, the soul isn’t something that can be maligned despite all the prejudices. The film handles this concept with the characters from opposite sides of this fantasized world and deals with this universal notion. It handles the issue for what necessarily makes one good or evil. Amidst all the clichés, the message remains potent; that ‘love’ is what bonds us, even after numerous efforts to divide.
The animation is jaw-dropping and deserves all the praise for its finesse, but the film seems to be so in awe with the visuals that it neglects the shortcomings of its narrative. In many parts, style exists for the sake of it; not to serve a purpose but to present a beautified pictorialization. And no matter how awestruck one might get solely looking at them, there’s very little substance attached to many scenes, which is why the emotional impact feels strangely uneven for an intriguing concept. Not that it’s completely a waste. Actually, a lot of what makes the film engaging was its animation style, which has the power to evoke profound emotions. Still, perhaps for the same reason, it’s disappointing to see vapid frames which had very little to say.
In the end, the film remains to be an exquisitely animated movie, which could have worked more with a clear purpose for its narrative tools.