The film “Detention” has been banned in China but is screened practically this week at the Digital Gym Cinema
The new movie “Detention” is based on a Taiwanese video game by Red Candle that has been banned in China. The film, not to be confused with the recent Netflix series, begins its screening virtually this Friday at the Digital Gym Cinema.
I’m not a gamer, so I’ve never heard of the Taiwanese game “Detention” from 2017 and had no idea that video games could be so political in nature. The film version of the game uses the tropes of horror in a way similar to what Jordan Peele did in “Get Out” and “Us,” to deliver a punch of social and political commentary.
Here is the story backdrop which is useful if you are not familiar with Taiwanese history or politics. This particular chapter of the story is not often covered in movies, not even Taiwanese because there seems to be some kind of voluntary amnesia about it.
The story is set in 1960s Taiwan. It was the height of what was called the White Terror when the Chinese Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek imposed martial law on the country. The period of martial law, one of the longest in history, lasted from 1949 to 1987, with fear lingering for years. Tens of thousands were arrested and thousands killed by the then repressive government. It is a period of extreme repression, all ideas considered to be dissenting are banned, and the culprits are tortured or executed. The story involves a pair of teachers who decide to start an underground literary club where students can read banned books and copy them into notebooks. It is a group of children who risk their lives to read poetry and dream of freedom.
Taking inspiration from the video game, director John Hsu uses a populist format – the horror film genre – to address serious questions about national guilt, how to remember the past and come to terms with the horrors of repressive regimes in hope. avoid them in the future.
The film mixes elements of monsters and haunted house fears with a political thriller to engage audiences. There are a few weird narrative changes and tonal changes, but if you stick to the end, it all makes sense and is actually quite clever. The narrative perspective changes as the story progresses and we find out who is the one who really makes the “nightmare” at the center of the film.
What turns out to be most horrific is the political reality of a repressive regime. It is not only the physical torture that they use, but also the way in which they use fear to control people and encourage conformism. There are some really scary and disturbing scenes reflecting the aftermath of someone providing information to the government.
Film and video games have been banned in China.