By Vicki Cole
Echoes of the Rainbow tells the story of a working family in Hong Kong during the 1960s, looking through the eyes of an eight year old boy nicknamed ‘Big Ears’ by his friends and family. He dreams that one day he will be an astronaut. ‘Echoes’ is director Alex Law’s love letter to his own childhood.
The story is set on the street where his family lives, reminding us of the sense of community that existed during that period. For when people were poor, they were extremely poor but could rely on their community to rally round them and provide support.
Law weaves symbolism throughout the film, from the use of fish to depict happiness, to the family shoe making business – the shoe being represented by the Chinese characters meaning woe and good times. Life is a cycle of good times and hard times, continuously turning and ever repeating.
The mother of Big Ears is played by Sandra Ng and much like her comedic roots in Hong Kong cinema; she provides the comedic relief of the story. She is often seen telling Big Ears that something bad would happen if he didn’t do as he was told, such as playing with water will result in you wetting the bed. This will be a familiar aspect of our own childhoods, our parents telling little white lies, desperately searching for ways to make us behave ourselves.
Buzz Chung is a revelation as Big Ears, lighting up the screen each time he graces it through a combination of innocence and naughtiness: the tiniest change in his facial expression has the ability to shift the emotional tone of a scene. Law interviewed some 500 children to play the lead role and appears to have tumbled across a real find.
Employing a combination of lap dissolves, lingering facial shots and soft lighting, Law’s focus is ever on the nostalgic nature of the film, but these techniques effectively date the film. Perhaps this was Law’s intention given the overall tone of the film, or perhaps this is simply the first of many elements that are lost in translation.
The Chinese title of the film is actually ‘The Thief of Time’, in reference to the loss of childhood innocence and time changing everything. Its English title loses much of this sentiment and only captures a small element of the story.
‘Echoes’ suffers from an overly long running time courtesy of a bit too much sentimentality. Law chooses to dedicate far too much time developing characters that are already likeable, delaying the extraordinary key scenes of the film until some 60 minutes into the film.
The film may suffer from being lost in translation when it comes to a western audience but for those in the Prince Charles Theatre during Hong Kong Film week, many local to the area where the story was set, this film was almost autobiographical.
Alex Law’s underlying message is that time is the greatest thief of all. To that I would say: the wisest man is he who cherishes the rarity of things, making the most of every second. Some memories last forever, no matter how fleeting the moments from which they are captured.