This is an engrossing film in its own way. I was caught up in its spell, and whisked along through the sumptuously shot scenes, the moody stares, and the convincing melodrama. Then came the end, and I was left confused, and searching for answers.
Prince of Tears is a love story set during the time of Taiwan’s “White Terror”, a hunt for communists that occurred during the early 1950s. Despite the setting, the plot centres on characters that could have been anywhere, and fails to pass comment on the period itself particularly, save that it was clearly a bad time. The scenes at school are nice – the cute kids are played up, as are the attractive women. The wife of the main guy’s acting can at best be described as introspective, and I don’t think she particularly convinced.
For all its flaws however, its beautifully made, and enjoyable to watch. It’s also fantastic that it was made – that Taiwan is now democratic enough for a mainstream blockbuster to turn on a clearly terrible period of its own history. I don’t you’ll see a piece like this made in the PRC – unless its cleared by the CCP Propaganda Department first. At the same time, the focus of the piece is clearly on the love story and the melodrama, and the film does not fully explore nor judge the players who one clearly feels anger at. The ending is particularly strange, and was not at all satisfying.
The film ends with the following message, and the final comment of “it’s all by-gones”, which seems particularly odd: “From 1950 to 1954 during the maritla law era in Taiwan over 3000 people were sentenced to death, and more than 8000 were jailed. Their aggregate prison terms exceeded 10,000 tyears. This movie is based on a true story. The father was executed in 1954 accused of treason and re-established in 2005. His remains are yet to be found. The mother remarried in 1956 and had two more children. She is 86 and still lives in Taiwan. Ding married Ping and spent his life quietly in Taichung and died in 1992 at the age of 79. Li has had a happy family life in Taipei with two children. lhou became an actress and was a top star in the 1960s. lt’s all by-gones.“