Super Citizen Ko

In this 1995 Taiwanese film by Wan Jen, an old man who has spent the past three decades in prison and then in a nursing home comes home to live with his daughter. Captured in a crackdown on leftists under martial law, Ko had been a member of a “study group,” his only crime. He has been subjected to brutal tortures and one of his friends, Chen, has been executed. Now Ko leaves the nursing home looking for answers and trying to set things right. Haunted by Chen’s death–“Why can’t I forget him?”–he begins to search for the others, now aged, who played a part in this drama. What makes the film effective is Wan’s use of a series of flashbacks–from the beginning, before we know what they mean–expressing the way Ko’s present life is overwhelmed by the past. The landscape of present-day Taipei–rapidly growing, construction everywhere–provides an effective counterpoint to Ko’s memories: we come to feel that the foundation of the buildings we see is in the past as well, in the past regime’s repression, torture, and murders. The scene in which Ko finally finds Chen’s grave–paying tribute at long last by lighting candles everywhere and speaking to the dead–“Those of you who possessed…selfless love were abandoned here”–is immensely moving. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, August 25, 4:00, 443-3737.

— Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Super Citizen Ko, alone on a beach.