The story of the film was adopted from an internet novel, “Lost on a Red Mini Bus to Tai Po”, circulated in 2012 in one of the hottest internet platform in Hong Kong names, “Golden Discussion Forum”. The film “Midnight after” was released in 2014 and was nominated for several Hong Kong Academy Awards and was selected in the Panorama section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. Although the story was based on the novel, the film Director, Fruit Chan, had treated the film in his own way by adding new symbolisms and metaphors. The story started by depicting a minibus departed from Mongkok, a downtown area in Hong Kong. The minibus’ destination was Taipo, a suburb area. The minibus communed from Kowloon, city area, to the New Territories, suburb, via the Lion Rock Tunnel. After passing the Lion Rock Tunnel, all the people in the minibus lost contact with other people in Hong Kong and later discovered that Hong Kong has entered a doomsday scenario where all the population was gone except the people inside that particular minibus. In the film, it seemed only the 17 people inside the mini-bus (including the driver, grass root worker, university students, young working class, ordinary couple, fortune-teller, middle age man, computer genius & otaku representing exaggerated versions of Hong Kong’s varied Chinese populace belonging to a variety of occupation and social classes) were alive while the whole Hong Kong population vanished.
The film worked as a universal allegory on the collapse of society through this fictitious setting. “The Midnight After” showed that this apocalyptic Tai Po was what Hong Kong became after 1997 and the desire to stay or leave is very much a reflection of the Hong Kong experience and Hong Kong identity. Questions such as: What comprises Hong Kong people’s cultural identity? Does Hong Kong have hope and future? Is it a place that laws and social rules no longer apply in the present day situation? Can collective memory sufficient to sustain Hong Kong people in an unfriendly, and perhaps thrilling environment? “The Midnight After” described these conflicts and emotions remarkably. The film offered audience an open ending and rooms to think. Audience did not know what happened next to the characters unless they referred back to the original novel. The film showed the journey via Lion Rock Tunnel to the present day situation of Hong Kong and the uncertain future due to unsolved contradictions on various political issues on the societal level. Several mysteries in the film, like Chi’s, the main character’s, old Japanese schoolmate in mask, the phone call from his girlfriend from 2018 and his ghostly visions of Yuki, a female character, won’t be explained unless the audience referred to the original novel. However, the answers from the original novel may not satisfy audiences. “The Midnight After” does not fully make sense, but succeeds without having to.
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Siu-lun, LEE is currently teaching at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He obtained his Doctor of Education at the University of Leicester, UK and M.A. Cultural Management from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests include film & society, film & language, language & culture, applied linguistics and sociolinguistics.