Review: Duo Luo Tian Shi (Fallen Angels, 1995)

fallen angels

So close, and yet so very far away, such is the story of human existence in the modern age!

Written By: Kar Wai Wong
Directed By: Kar Wai Wong

It would be droll for me to spend too much time talking about the obviousness of what Duo Luo Tian Shi is about. It’s not that I think it’s an obvious movie, but it’s such a dynamically made film that to spend too much time talking about cultural connections in the modern age would be to shortchange the dynamic nature of the film. Duo Luo Tian Shi is about people being closer than ever, but for one reason or another they are unable to connect with one another. There are scenes in the film where characters are right next to each other but they either don’t say anything or don’t listen to to the other person. This creates a cycle of people being left unfulfilled because the lack of communication in society has left them without the relationships they need to feel like whole people. Those elements are present in Duo Luo Tian Shi, and they are handled in fine fashion, but I don’t want to focus on them in this review.

Instead I want to focus on the filmmaking of Kar Wai Wong. Specifically I want to focus on how he takes an emotionally cold topic and charges it with emotion through his visual aesthetics. The choice to film in constant motion is the loudest aspect of Xiānshēng Wong’s filmmaking style in Duo Luo Tian Shi. The camera rarely rests in the film, this puts forth the notion of a culture that refuses to stop and think. Without thinking we are prone to rash decisions, decisions that will only serve to further drive us from the emotional connections that we need. When the camera does stop it is for the briefest of moments, as if the characters are so used to movement that they can’t stand the stillness and must unknowingly accelerate the film back into action.

Duo Luo Tian Shi is a bright movie, full of lots of yellows in particular. The colors are visually appealing, they work well with the camera in motion aesthetic. They also help to serve as a distracting element, for the audience and the characters. There’s no drive to focus on what should matter to us as humans when the world around us is so distracting. In this way the colors serve as a surrogate for all the distractions that we pile into our lives. Focusing on what matters is hard, it always has been, but focus in the modern era of technology, entertainment, and passing relationships is perhaps the hardest it has ever been.

Xiānshēng Wong applies his unique visual, and auditory style, to the plight of connecting in the modern age and he manages to make a rather unique film. Duo Luo Tian Shi is different from other films that have tried to broach the problem of modern connection issues. It’s different because it’s better, but it’s also different because it conveys the issue in a stylistic manner that is effective without resorting to heavy handedness. The lack of a true narrative may bother some, but I simply recommend that people let the movie wash over them and go with the flow. That’s what I did, because film is more than an A to Z narrative, it’s also style melded with substance in a way that is exhilarating. Duo Luo Tian Shi is an energetic tome to the modern age, and it further cements Xiānshēng Wong’s place as one of the greatest working directors.





4 responses to “Review: Duo Luo Tian Shi (Fallen Angels, 1995)

  1. Bill, you’re right on with this review. Fallen Angels is the type of movie that I’d love to see in the theaters. It’s such a stunning visual film and feels so original that any plot limitations fall by the wayside. This was the big surprise for me when I caught up with most of Kar Wai’s films last summer.

  2. I have to imagine this would look great on the big screen, although I’m sure I would struggle with some of the motion elements.

  3. That’s a good point. Some of those scenes speeding through the streets might be challenging to take.

  4. Yep, always have to take my motion sickness into account. 🙂

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