Frameland Recommends: The Cube Phantom

The Cube Phantom (2020)

The Cube Phantom (2020) shows sides of both the nature and metropolitan city of Hong Kong not often shown. Director Alan Lau starts by placing his film firmly in the context of recent Hong Kong history, by way of an audio clip of the 1997 speech by the Prince of Wales in 1997, announcing the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China. The Cube Phantom is then divided into ten chapters, each labelled by a different theme to describe the phases Hong Kong and its citizens have been through after 1997, such as ‘the struggle’, ‘origin’, ‘rejoice’, ‘youth’, ‘yearning’ and ‘metamorphosis’.

Each sequence starts with a poem visualised against stunning images of a new setting, in which several dancers perform their choreography (by Jordann de Santis). Their performance is accompanied by classical, oriental or urban music, fitting the theme the dancers express. The dancers dance on the top of a hill, in a grey dilapidated room, on a graveyard and in the quiet streets of Hong Kong by night, among other places. What The Cube Phantom doesn’t show are the images Hong Kong is mostly known for: the crowded, dirty and noisy streets. This way, Lau shows the unknown, yet unique and beautiful characteristics of the city.

Some chapters look like a video clip promoting Hong Kong as a tropical holiday destination. Others are rather mysterious, showing us the less touristic or forgotten sides of the city. Each choreography is adapted to the surrounding the dancers find themselves in and this way create another vibe that continuously moves you in another way. While the chapter ‘youth’ creates an energetic feeling and expresses the joy of life of the young people living in Hong Kong, ‘the struggle’ rather represents an oppressive and spooky atmosphere, a feeling of breaking free and longing for freedom.

These ten extraordinary chapters all together make The Cube Phantom one of the most artistic and multi-disciplinary dance films ever made and, above all, a stunning ode to the city of Hong Kong and its people.

This International Film Festival Rotterdam Recommendation was published in February 2020