Inner Senses


Director: Lo Chi-leung
(Bruce Law Chi-Leung)

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Inner Senses is an unusual film that builds on a very old psychological idea not often expressed this wholeheartedly in cinema: Ghosts are projections of psychological states. The classic ghost story by Henry James "The Turn of the Screw" is of this category, but because cinema is a literal/visual medium, ghosts tend to be treated as much more literal & externally dangerous beings. Though we're treated to many images of supernatural incidents throughout Inner Senses, there is never any question but that ghost are in the mind only.

This was Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing's last film before his suicide in 2003. His death was obsessively covered in Asian tabloids, but there was a degree of respect in most of the coverage, & Leslie Cheung may go down in Chinese gay history as the first public figure whose survivor-lists in obituaries were headed by his same-sex companion/spouse, Daffy Tong.

Cheung plays a smugly rational psychology professor who acquires a client who sees dead people, a beautiful young woman (Karena Lam)but very depressed & practically shut-in, with whom the professor instantly falls in love.

At first it seems unlikely that a professional in the mental health field, & especially one this self-conscious about how he is seen by peers, would risk career & status by becoming so enamored of a suicidal depressive in his care. But in fact they are two of a kind, & as the good doctor's system of disbelief in ghosts begins to cure the heroine, by a method of transference it is the doctor who begins to see ghosts, & who becomes suicidal. The image of Leslie Cheung standing on the ledge of a roof ready to jump is one of the most haunting things in this film, because who could've guessed the actor would soonafter take his own life by this very method.

When at first the young woman becomes sane & the doctor becomes nutty it feels like the film has gone off on a tangent, but transference of personality is actually an old cinematic tradition, as in Ingmar Bergman's Persona & Robert Altman's 3 Women. Before it's over Inner Senses has become a rather too pat psychological exercise laid atop of disfunctional love story, but at least it does make sense, unlike the majority of the films of the new Asian horror which are internally inconsistent & don't hold up to much consideration of their plots.

If a viewer were expecting an example of the New Asian Horror, Inner Senses can be a big disappointment. I frankly would've preferred the more common direction of such stories, in which the rationalist slowly realizes his patient's experiences are literal. Nevertheless, the internal consistency of the thing, as well as the acting & production values, are far better than for most of the recent ghostly tales from Hong Kong or Japan. If the viewer wants a quality foreign film about a doctor & patient who fall in love under mutually unstable circumstances, this is a quality drama that will fill the bill.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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