Director: Fruit Chan
Writer: Pik Wah Li
Starring: Bai Ling, Miriam Yeung Chin Wah, Tony Leung Ka Fai
2004 | Hong Kong | Not Rated | 91 mins
The pressures and forced notions of staying young, looking young, and youth as we age becomes a grotesque mockery as time takes its toll. Society itself generates an image that we must all look the best we can if we want to succeed in life or attract the attention of others, a perceived ideal that doesn't always bring out the best in people. Obtaining the Fountain of Youth is a myth that too many of these companies and products sell to consumers to establish a hip culture that everyone must be a part of if they are to be somebody. Fruit Chan plays with not only this theme but many more disturbing controversies in a tale about consuming youth in Dumplings.
Mrs. Li (Miriam Yeung Chin Wah) is an aging actress past her prime who is losing the interest of her rich husband (Tony Leung Ka Fai). They are living in a five star hotel while their home is being renovated, and Mr. Li is too busy to pay any attention to her as he's off on "business trips" and taking a fancy to the hotel's young masseuse. To attract the attention of her adulterous husband and regain her youth Mrs. Li is secretly going to Aunt Mei's (Bai Ling) home-run dumpling shop, where the supposed special dumplings turn back the clock. But more than just special spices and mixtures, the key ingredient to consuming this Fountain of Youth are the fetuses of aborted babies.
Dumplings is a deeply disturbing and thematically heavy horror film. Dealing with abortion, adultery, greed, cannibalism, and societies distorted views on beauty and youth. The reveal of the key ingredient is not a spoiler as the fetus-filled dumplings are shown being prepared in the opening scene. This is not the main ingredient to the horror, but a symbol of the true horror that the film represents - that the corruption of the idea of youth as pressured by society as we age can make people do ugly, evil things just for perceived beauty and power. Bai Ling is fantastic as Mei who's character contrasts Mrs. Li as being this slithering mockery of youth, a conniving devil, who fully represents societies demands to look and act young. Miriam Yeung Chin Wah is detestable and someone we like less and less as her character Mrs. Li slowly consumes her innocence and naivety until she's nothing left but a corrupted ideal and is forced to be the face of evil Aunt Mei represented.
Not for the squeamish, or easily disturbed, Dumplings contains some shocking images that elevate its controversial and disturbing themes to darker places. Fruit Chan paces the film slowly and steadily as the dread and terror lingers from scene to scene creating an extremely unsafe and haunting atmosphere. Dumplings was also cut down and re-edited as one of the three short films in the also recommended Asian horror experience Three... Extremes, which features two other terrifying tales by Japan's Takashi Miike and Korea's Chan-Wook Park. Dumplings is a disturbing main course of horror that's after taste will linger long after you've finished it.
All contents copyright 2010 Tyler Baptist