The pathway to hell is supposedly lined with Spider Lilies. They contain a poison which causes one to lose memory. In the film “Spider Lilies” (Wolfe Video) memory is the central theme. Taiwan sends us this beautiful lesbian love story in which the characters are asked if their memories are faulty and if thoughts can be repressed.
Living with her grandmother is Jade who is an internet web-cam girl and earns money for being employed in the sex trade. She trades intimate moments on the web by selling nude pictures. Since she was nine years old she has had a lover, Takeko, who is a tattoo artist. She has a Spider Lily tattooed on her arm and Jade also wants one so that she can rekindle the wonderful days of love she had in the past and to also hope that her love with Takeko will become stronger.
I remember when tattoos had serious connotations unlike today. The movie looks at tattoos in a way I have never seen before. We learn of the specifics behind certain tattoos and why people get the ones that they do. Herein lies the key to the symbolism of the movie—the hiding of real intentions and emotions behind something and then feed off of the energy of the design.
This is cutting edge cinema and it uses the lesbian love angle to bring the audience in. It is actually the Hong Kong angle of the movie that overshadows everything. Takeko is shy and reclusive and has t care for a mentally challenged brother. Jade and Takeko share a past and an anger. When Jade tells Takeko that she wants a Spider Lily tattoo, the two women begin exploring their pasts (with little dialog). But as they muse about their pasts as well as their future hopes, they hurt everyone including each other.
What makes this film better than the usual is the depiction of lesbian emotions and it does so fearlessly and without caution. The film also looks at those marginalized by society and gives an in depth perspective of life. The movie likewise helps us to see how different people have different ways of acting upon and acting through desires and how they cross from trauma to freedom, where one learns to deal with suffering. Thereby we can learn in which we can act.
Using the tattoo as allegory, we get a story told through pictures that reflect the past and bring the future into focus. This is a deep movie. Jade is trapped by what happened in the past while Takeko is simply trapped. They come together to build a future based on the past—a past they shared. With such a strong story, I expected better acting and that seems the only drawback of the film. The girls past is shown as sweet and bitter and when looking at the past, emotions are very high. Nevertheless it is a fine movie in its originality and will be a wonderful addition the canon of GLBT cinema.