Review - 'Charades of Time' by Low Ser En (NTU ADM Film Class of 2013)

In “Charades of Time”, a time traveller falls in love with a seamstress from the past. They face the problem of living in two separate timelines as time passes differently for them. A year in the time traveller’s life is equivalent to a day in the seamstress’ life. The time traveller can only meet the seamstress on the Lunar New Year of his timeline and he never fails to appear in her shop when she expects him to. As the time traveller ages rapidly before the seamstress’ eyes, he comes to accept that they will eventually be torn apart by time. He ultimately decides to distance himself from his beloved to allow her to move on with her life while he continues to watch over her from afar.

Despite the science fiction premise, the idea of different perceptions of time leading to the dissolution of a relationship is relatable to couples not plagued with metaphysical complications. While half of the couple takes comfort in the blending together of the days spent together, the other half may become increasingly anxious of the speed at which time slips away. The latter can easily sympathize with the time-traveller in his submission to the immutable laws of time.

“Time” in the film can also refer to time period, a factor which accounts for the slow progress of the romance between the time traveller and the seamstress. Even in the face of their constraining circumstances, the couple still takes their time to navigate their emotions as fitting for the courtships of the era. When the couple appear to be talking about time, they are actually talking about their relationship, hence the narrator’s intimation that the subtext-ladened conversation marks the turning point in which the seamstress falls for the time traveller. Perhaps if the two have met in the modern age, they would be able to freely voice what they feel about each other and have a more passionate relationship. Yet passion may come at the expense of the understated intimacy depicted in the couple’s interactions.

The only dull moments in the film are the shots of the time traveller submerged in a body of water as the use of water imagery to evoke a surreal atmosphere is rather clich├ęd. Furthermore, though these shots require considerable technical expertise, they are less emotionally resonant than the focus on concrete objects such as the sewing machine music box and the handmade qipao to ground the romance in reality. In the last shot when a female figure (presumably the seamstress) reaches underwater to grasp the time traveller’s hand, all I could think of is, “I hope his expensive-looking wristwatch is waterproof.”

Review by Joseline Yu
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