Farewell to the Ark
Since the turn of the century, technology has become more and more embedded in our daily lives, and at some point during the last decade, it became inseparable. Almost every type of long-distance communication, financial transaction, and form of entertainment now take place on the Internet. Scrolling through pixels while in front of screens, big or small, has become one of the most frequent pass times of humanity, and with it come to the outcomes that manifest themselves in real life. Even though two persons in the world are never further than a click away, they’ve likely never been further apart. 'Farewell to the Ark', written and directed by Taiwanese filmmaker Yi-Feng Chang, attempts to capture a fragment of this new world that we have unconsciously slipped into.
The plot revolves around several characters, whose intertwined fates we gradually find out about as the story unfolds itself. Jie uses online games as an escape from a job he hates, a financial situation that is only getting worse, and the fact that he doesn’t get along with anybody in real life. Xian Xian is a singer in a successful band that has attracted quite a lot of fame but struggles with showcasing her actual emotions and connecting with anyone on a deeper level. Shizuko no longer seeks real-world socializing situations and has grown distant from her friends, instead preferring to merely ‘exist’ in her messy room and do nothing all day. Their fates are connected, culminating in a vivid portrayal of loneliness, isolation and, ironically, disconnection.
Despite being set in Taiwan, and relating to numerous cultural and distinct social characteristics specific of the country and larger area, 'Farewell to the Ark' also exhibits a degree of universal allure and resonance through its themes and overarching implications. Some of these resemble those of the excellent 'Disconnect' (2012) – but, as opposed to it, Yi-Feng Chang has no antagonist other than human nature. Isolating ourselves with technology is a conscious choice as much as it is a personal response to the status quo, a coping mechanism which posits that certain compromises are made. It is society’s fault, but equally our own collective fault for making society the way it is, and playing the part of a cog in search for its own individuality.
The film beautifully captures this sense of loneliness and quiet desperation, through its jumbled excerpts, cinematography, character interaction and, most importantly, the manner of interaction. One character prefers to never have to interact with a sibling, as she finds merely knowing that he is alive somewhere more than sufficient. Two characters hold a long and deep conversation about life and emotions, but despite being a mere couple of steps away in the physical world, never communicate face to face. The monotone ‘bleep’ that signals another received message becomes not only a recurring theme within the movie but a character in itself. It echoes a deep feeling of frustration and powerlessness, not only relating to the self but also everything around it. Despite some minor problems, 'Farewell to the Ark' deserves credit alone for evoking such feelings and their underlying mechanisms alongside them.