Title: Jian Gui
English Title: The Eye
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Mandarin
Director: Danny & Oxide Pang
Writer: Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui, Danny & Oxide Pang
Release Date: 9th May 2002 (Hong Kong), 27th September 2002 (UK)
Runtime: 98 (Hong Kong), 99 (UK)

MAIN CAST
Angelica Lee (credited as Lee Sin-je) - Mun
Lawrence Chou - Dr Lo (Junior)
Edmund Chen - Dr Lo (Senior)
Chutcha Rujinanon - Ling
Yut Lai So - Ying Ying
Pierre Png - Dr Eak
Yin Ping Ko - Mun's grandmother
Candy Lo - Lee

PLOT SUMMARY
Mun, who has been blind since the age of two, receives a corneal transplant which allows her to see again. She finds that she can see recently deceased people and her reflection is not her own. A trip to Thailand reveals the secrets of her new eye and helps her rid herself of her own and another's personal demons...

FULL PLOT OVERVIEW
Warning: Contains major spoilers and will lessen your enjoyment of the film.
The film starts with Mun in hospital and we are introduced to Ying Ying, a young girl in the next bed with a brain tumour. It is revealed that Mun has been blind since a very young age and is to have a corneal transplant to recover her sight. We are introduced to Dr Lo (Senior), who is to be the surgeon.

Mun has the operation and as her bandages are removed from over her eyes, she is unable to see anything properly and her whole vision is a blur. She is in pain and has the bandages replaced. They are removed again the next day and her vision slowly returns. We are treated to lots of blurred shots from Mun's point of view. Her and Ying Ying celebrate by taking photographs together.

It is at this point, in hospital, that Mun first starts to notice people in her vision that are slightly out of focus and appear to disappear and reappear. She notices the image of an old lady from the hospital being led away by a figure dressed entirely in black. The next morning the lady is found dead. Mun is understandably a little freaked out by this, but takes her leave and goes home. She is next shown having her first meeting with Dr Lo (Junior - Senior is his uncle), who is to be her helper in learning how to use her eyes again. He holds up a stapler and she is unable to recognize it without touch. Lo explains that it is this level of appreciation that he is to teach her.

Mun goes to an orchestra meeting - she has been playing the violin for a group consisting entirely of blind people. She plays along, but at the end is told by the conductor that she won't be able to play at the show as she now has her sight back, but can continue to come to rehearsals.

At home, strange things continue to happen:

  • Her entire room changes its decor back and forth.
  • She sees a small boy outside her door asking for his report card and eating a candle. No-one else sees or hears the boy and he does not reply to her.
  • During a calligraphy lesson she notices a strange woman in the corner of the room who asks her why she is sitting in her seat. The teacher doesn't seem to notice the woman and she suddenly screams and darts across the room towards Mun (this is probably the scariest moment in the movie, but it is a bit of a cheap shot).
  • In a restaurant, she sees a strange woman and child - the woman has a strange purple tongue and is clearly trying to get some food (I have been told this is a traditional Chinese image - the hungry ghost).
  • Outside, a young boy runs towards, and through, her. She carries on forward towards a crowd where she sees the same boy dead in the street. She turns round and sees the apparition being led away by a black-clothed figure.
  • Back at home in the lift in her building she sees a strange old man hovering a few millimetres off the ground. He floats towards her and turns round to reveal that half of his face is missing. She escapes from the lift just in time and races back to her apartment.

At this point, Mun is pretty freaked and goes back to see Dr Lo (Junior) and tells him what has been happening. He is unsure whether to believe her fanciful tale or not, but is eventually swung by her insistence. He goes to his uncle and asks for the medical records of the donor, so that they can find her and hopefully unravel what is happening. Dr Lo (Senior) refuses and claims that it is his nephew's desire for the girl that is driving him to help her. (Junior) admits that he has feelings for her, and storms out.

Mun is next shown returning to her orchestra, playing madly for a few minutes (with bizarre swooping camera angle shots) by herself and collapsing. She wakes up in hospital and she is talking to Ying Ying who says that her tumour has been removed and she can now leave the hospital. A figure dressed in black looms behind and Ying Ying says she must leave. Mun realizes that Ying Ying has died (this is accompanied by images of the operation going wrong, which seemed a little unnecessary).

Mun is returning home on a train with Dr Lo (Junior) who gives her a card that Ying Ying had made for her. The card contains a picture of Ying Ying and Mun, but Mun asks why Ying Ying has included the wrong picture - we then cut to Mun standing in front of a mirror at home and we see that the reflection (Mun's point of view) is of another girl. Mun screams "Who are you?!" and smashes the glass.

Mun and Dr Lo (J) return to Dr Lo (S) and succeed in convincing him to hand over the records - the girl was called Ling and was from Thailand. Mun and Dr Lo immediately set off. They arrive and go straight to the hospital that the records are from, asking for Dr Eak. At first they are told there is no such doctor, but are eventually allowed to speak with him. Dr Eak explains that Ling was a girl who could sense when people were to die. She would sit crying outside people's houses and the next morning someone would be found dead. She was thought of as a witch and universally hated. This explanation is all intercut with powerful black and white footage of Ling all through her life, being told to go away when only trying to help people.

Dr Eak, Dr Lo and Mun make their way to the house where Ling's mother lives. She is quite happy to accomodate them, and even shows them Ling's room, which is the room that Mun's kept on changing into earlier. Mun asks how Ling died and is told that she hanged herself. This part of the film is a little strange - Mun and Dr Lo stay in the house for the evening. Mun stays awake and tries to communicate with Ling, having visions of her hanging herself, eventually going downstairs and confronting Ling's mother just before 3a.m. - revealed to be the time when Ling died. They both run upstairs and we see the hangee interchange between Ling and Mun and eventually Dr Lo comes into the room to find Mun being comforted by Ling's mother. It seems that Ling has now moved on.

Mun continues to see these visions, and the last sequence in the film is of Mun and Dr Lo in a coach. They are in a massive traffic jam and Mun sees hundreds and hundreds of the black-clothed figures from the window. She realises that there is about to be a massive accident and runs out of the coach trying to tell people to run away and save themselves. Much like Ling, no-one believes her and there is a massive gas explosion and lots of shots of burning people.

The very last shot is of Mun walking along using her white cane again. It is unclear whether her corneas have stopped working, she has had them removed or is simply not using her eyes (owlman informs me that there is a cool slo-mo shot of glass hitting Mun in the eye in the previous scene, but I think I must have missed that - I preferred my imaginary ambiguous ending, I think).

FADE OUT

CREDITS ROLL...

SUM UP
This is a very good film, up there with Audition and Ring when it comes to Asian horror cinema. There are very obvious nods to The Sixth Sense in the plot and the style, but, if anything, the Pang brothers out-do M. Night Shyamalan in terms of suspense. A criticism leveled at this, along with Danny & Oxide's first film, Bangkok Dangerous, is that it is essentially style over substance. This is primarily because of the flamboyant use of the cameras and the massively high production values, but these do not in any way detract from the universally superb acting and the great premise.

The use of black and white in the Ling flashbacks is very interesting. The white is massively overpowering, and it is possibly better described as white and black - there are certainly no shades of grey. These sequences are quite difficult to watch at times and work well in making the viewer sympathetic to Ling's plight.

In the last scene where Mun predicts the gas explosion, the bang is caused by a driver turning his ignition. The way this is filmed looks like it has been pulled directly from a film by David Fincher or the first race scene in The Fast and the Furious - the driver turns the key and we are immediately taken through the innards of the car in a pseudo-first person view to the spark plug. This is a completely blatant rip-off and feels somehow incongruous with the rest of the film.

Overall, if you enjoyed The Sixth Sense or any of the other recent Asian horrors then I can't possibly recommend this highly enough - even if most of the shocks are cheap shots.


Sources:
the flawless imdb.com
my own viewing of the film

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