© Universum Film

Zwei Welt-Ein Schicksal (Big Fish & Begonia, Dayu haitang)
China 2017

Opening 7 Feb 2019

Directed by: Xuan Liang, Chun Zhang
Writing credits: Daniel Chuba, Xuan Liang
Principal actors: Guanlin Ji, Shangqing Su, Timmy Xu

Chun belongs to a tribe of beings who are neither people nor gods but “the others.” They enjoy long lives, although “a long life is worthless if one is unhappy.” They have their own customs, one being that at age 16, Chun must learn about our world. For this experience she changes into a red dolphin and swims into the sea, where she is soon caught in a fishing net. Kun, a young boy, saves her life, but loses his own. Chun is so saddened by the loss and grateful for his courage that she wishes to bring Kun back to life; this entails caring for his soul, represented as a small fish, until it reaches new maturity.

Although open for children age six and older, this is not your typical children’s film, but a challenge even for adults. Inspired by ancient Chinese mythology, it took 12 years to complete, supported by China’s most successful crowd-funding ever. The Chinese directors worked with the Korean Film Studio Mir and the Japanese composer Kiyoshi Yoshida. Here, Chun meets interesting characters along the way, such as a one-eyed man who has many cats, or a two-headed snake. There is so much fantasy that any attempt to follow any kind of story line can become frustrating. No matter: just sit back and enjoy 100 minutes of an ever-changing work of art with beautiful colors and background music. Perhaps young people will find that easier to accomplish than adults, or they might see it, like some of my colleagues, who said, “It’s Flipper!” Recent journalistic reports discuss impressions that Asia has become the leading expert on animation and this excellent Big Fish & Begonia serves as an example. (Becky Tan)

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