How do you live after surviving a car accident, but the person you loved the most didn’t? This is the premise of the film Zinnia Flower by Taiwanese director Tom Shu-Yu Lin, one of the eighteen films included in the Main Competition Programme of the Black Nights Film Festival.
The Zinnia flower, in Chinese tradition, is a symbol of mourning, a flower that blooms for one hundred days after which it is not allowed to cry for the lost one anymore. It is precisely within this time frame that the movie takes place: a young man loses his wife and a young woman loses her fiancée in the same car crash. Joined by the event, the survivors deal similarly, but separately with the loss of their life partners. For weeks after the tragic event, they try to find, rather unsuccessfully, answers in religion and comfort in family and friends; they struggle, feel helpless and hopeless, lost in a world in which they can no longer talk about “we”, in which they wake up in bed alone, in which objects like a crib and tickets to a honeymoon now represent a future that will never be.
The movie is a journey through the process of grieving and overcoming the loss of a loved one. The director’s own wife passed away a few years ago and this film is actually dedicated to her. It is a touching tribute to her and it shows; it feels deeply personal, the kind of story that could not have been told by someone who hasn’t been through it: somehow, this movie was part of the director’s journey through his process of grieving, too, although, by his own account, he realized that only after he had finished filming. In the movie, music and food also become characters, representing the wife, who was a piano teacher, and the boyfriend who was a chef, respectively, still present in their partners’ life; just like the film embodies the director’s wife, accompanying him through his work.
This film is not a light-hearted portrayal of love. On the contrary, it is a heart-wrenching reminder of the pain we feel after losing someone; one might even shed a couple of tears, as everyone will most likely feel related to the characters and to the void they feel in their lives. But it is also a beautiful movie, full of symbolism, of metaphors and of hope. Hope that it will get better some day, that someone does understand how they are feeling, that they are not completely alone.