“The Breaking Ice”: Exploring At The Border Of The Soulby Yawen Liu

The Breaking Ice (2023) by Anthony Chen is a remarkable movie that can leave a deep impression and endless imagination for audiences. It’s hard for me to simply define it as a common romantic movie, instead, it skillfully illustrates the story of three independent, young, but also insignificant and confused individuals finding a new way out on the “border” of their hearts. Geographically, the story takes place in “Yanji”, which is located on the border of China and North Korea. Meanwhile, the director is also conveying that this is a journey along three characters’ hearts to heal and find answers to life. The “ice” in the title, a key element throughout the movie, also represents the relationship between Haofeng, Nana and Xiao. From strangers to friends to people with deeper connections and more complicated interactions, the ice melted to the water and finally turned into vapor.

One of the film’s most outstanding features is its montage technique. Chen uses a fragmented narrative structure that weaves together the past and present, thus enhancing the emotional depth of the story. Through skillful editing, the juxtaposition of memories and current plots are presented to the viewer at the same time. As such, the complex experiences and inner-feelings of the characters strongly resonate with the audience.

Chen’s challenge to traditional Hollywood rules is reflected in his attempt to tell a story with minimal dialog and a non-linear narrative structure. This filming method leads to an active participation of the audience in the plot and the story of its characters. At the same time, Chen captured many close-up shots of the small expressions and glances of different characters, which guide audiences to observe and think about the changes in this triangle relationship between Haofeng, Nana, and Xiao. All of these have contributed to the advancement of movie language and created a more thought-provoking viewing experience.

In addition, The Breaking Ice effectively utilizes its filmic approach as a container to absorb the voice of modern society. The film is set in the Chinese border city of Yanji, where the mise-en-scene and location selection serve as powerful tools to highlight the alienation experienced by the three characters in a conservative, unforgiving environment. The “desolate” and “cold” landscapes, and the “lonely” and “isolated” atmosphere are metaphors for the emotional and social barriers faced by the younger generation of modern society. They have complex emotions and feelings towards society and interpersonal relationships, which makes them have to rethink their own lives. There may be joyfulness, passion, but there will also be doubts, struggles and tears. 

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