Silk (Gui si) (2006)

The world's first caught spirit.
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Silk - The World's First Caught Spirit.

For decades religious leaders have tried to combine the supernatural with science to try and justify the ridiculous beliefs they maintain while the rest of the world gradually starts to become rational. Taiwanese writer and director Chao-Bin Su tries to do the same with Silk (Gui si) but, like Scientologists, he ends up discovering that it is no simple task to combine the two opposing theories. They will clash making a holey (not holy) and confusing story. Silk utilises an intriguing science fiction theory and tries to blend this with a traditional Eastern ghost story with a bit of a lesson about life thrown in to boot. In this case the blending fails and ends up feeling like three unrelated stories interfering with each other. It could work, it should work, but the storytelling skills invested in making this film are not strong enough to bring the threads together.

The scientific angle revolves around the invention of an anti-gravity technology called the "Menger Sponge". Traditional Asian ghosts are simply a form of energy (possibly amplified by hate) and the Menger Sponge (a curious looking microscopic cube) enables the manipulation of this energy and has allowed scientist-cripple Hashimoto to capture a ghost of a young boy and incarcerate it in a room. Having not seen the perfect marketing angle to gain investment from the Catholic Church and with his sponsor losing patience, Hashimoto is under pressure to provide some results from his research. This looks like a job for Detective Tung, the sharpshooter with lip reading prowess.

The emotional story is that Tung's mother is in a coma and Tung is ardently grasping on to what remains of his mothers life, refusing to let his mommy dearest pass on to the ghost world. This gives him a vested interest in understanding the afterlife and adds some poignancy to the story ready to deliver some life affirming lessons later on.

The supernatural aspect is already obvious but there are some ideas that enhance this above and beyond the facial distortion deaths of Ringu, the creepy Ju-On ghosts and the now obvious jump scares that fail to provoke a jump utilised herein. The original bit in Silk is the "silk". The dead are connected to the living world by a thin thread of silk unnoticeable to most except the eagle eyes of sharpshooter Tung. The thread connects from the spirit to the living reason that they are unable to pass on to the afterlife. This aspect of the film is quite a good mechanism for adding suspense. The almost unnoticeable thread wafting from a living character is a good indication that a spooky bout of violence is about to happen alerting the viewer's senses to the surroundings.

Silk is often beautifully shot and provides some interesting use of colours within the visuals as a backdrop to heartfelt issues such as premeditated and mutually agreed child murder, particle acceleration science and the reasons for life. Also some terrible CGI worthy of CSI: Taipei. Each aspect of the story is far from shallow and is well thought through with regards to a backstory and has characters in-depth enough to be interesting. The issue is the clashes, the stories do not tie in coherently and the interactions between seem distinct rather than continuous. A prime example is when Tung is on the train awaiting his demise and he suddenly drifts off into an emotional respite about his mother on the phone to his girlfriend. They obviously cut the scenes where the murderous ghost stands about twiddling her hair until he hangs up. For this reason the overall story can become frustrating and can seem to drag.

The tension increases towards the end and the film does become more exciting but by this time it requires a lot more to make it stand out. People are revealed to not be quite who they seem, real motives are revealed and there is a little moralistic twist about hate versus love. These aspects do manage to rescue the film quite substantially but seem crammed in right at the end without adequate build up. Most disappointingly Silk does not answer the question that has plagued paranormal scientists for centuries: why do ghosts wear clothes?
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