Review: Bubble (2020)


Film still from ‘Bubble’ ©Haonan Wang

Two standard expressions spring to mind after having watched Haonan Wang’s superbly crunchy relationship horror drama Bubble: “You are so cute, I could eat you up” and “You destroy the thing that you love.” Both of sayings merge into a spectacularly morbid, passionate union in Wang’s vision of all things going so right in a relationship, that they reach a point of no return.

A young couple has a seemingly well functioning life of togetherness. They share their new flat in the comfortable silence, leveling up and doing small affectionate things for each other, such that speak of great intimacy and mutual understanding. It’s a picture book of a perfect union, caught from every physical (camera lens) angle.

Using silence instead of dialogues to emphasise the intimacy between the two, Wang needs only one sentence to point into a different direction, a simple: “How does it feel?”, a question from the young woman (Jing Jin) to her partner (Naughty Xiao). Between the question and the answer, there is a strange shaped stone, held and studied by both. That curious object belongs to him, and is kept in a small box tucked behind things that should be, and are visible to the eye of the potential visitor. The stone obviously doesn’t belong to objects on display. It is, as it seems, of extremely important value to its owner.

The absence of an answer to a seemengly simple question is oposite of desultory, it is a hint at an indication, a door to mysterious possibilities. How does it feel like? The hunger for epiphany grows. What is that thing he is asked to describe? Is it something gender-specific? Maybe related to a special talent? How about a super-power? Or is it a pure banality?

Long wait for something surprising to come won’t happen, but it plays to the sound you might want to skip on should you happen to suffer from misophonia. The work by the foley artists and the sound department to make the viewer reacting physically to the staccato of munching and gulping sounds is incredible. Even the tiniest movement of the man’s jaw while chewing on (a mountain of) vegetables sounds like a car crusher compressing metal. The man, it turns out, has the unquenchable hunger for raw green vegetables. He is destroying plate after plate of greens, until his body starts to transform. The woman can’t suppress her hunger neither, but she strangely abstains from eating.

Bubble is a crazy ride through a hellish vision of love and passion, entertaining and smart in small hidden messages it conveys, and it is hard to believe that this actually is a directorial debut. Wang hasn’t only penned the script, he also composed the score for the film, extremely different from the rest of the accoustics – pleasant and soothing.

The film was screened in the Phantasmagorias Programm of the Short Film Competition at SIFF.

Country: China
Language: Chinese
Year: 2020
Running Time: 14 min.
Producer: Sol Ye
Written/ Directed by: Haonan Wang
Cinematographer: Gianpaolo Lupori
Production Designer: Luyue Meng
Sound Designer: Bobo Lau
Location Manager: Yun Wang
Set Sound Mixer: Xingchen Dong
Sound Mixing: Bobo Lau
Sound Editing/ Foley: Bobo Lau, Smart Lee
Set Dresser: Wei Fang
3D Modelling: Zheng Huang
VFX Supervisor: Chengliang Wu
Makeup Artist: Juan Juan
VFX Makeup Artist: Jie Zhang, Huimei Zhang, Ziyi Qiu
Sculpture Artists: Ning An, Jie Zhang
Mould Artist: Xiaobo Ma
Colourist: Asa Fox
Editors: Haonan Wang, Muhe Chen
Music: Haonan Wang
Cast: Dingchen Xiao, Jing Jin